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Full text of "Mind's Eye: A Liberal Arts Journal 2013"

2013 

Mind's Eye 

A Liberal Arts Journal Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 




learning and teach i ng- 
Inside and Outside the 
Classroom 



Editorial Board 

Dale Borman Fink, Guest Editor 
Frances Jones-Sneed, Managing Editor 
Robert Bence 
Sumi Colligan 
MarkD. Miller 
Melanie Mowinski 

Leon Peters 
Jennifer L. Zoltanski 

Karen Howard, Copy Editor 



Advisory Board 

James MacGregor Burns, Professor of History and Political Science, 
University of Maryland 
Stephen Fix, Professor of English, Williams College 
Tony Gengarelly, Professor of Art History, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 
Thomas Green, Professor of Law and History, University of Michigan 
Mary Huber, Carnegie Foundation Scholar 
Lea Newman, Professor of English Emerita, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 
Joseph Thompson, Director of MASS MoCA 

©2013 The Mind's Eye 
ISSN 1098-0512 

http://www.mcla.mass.edu/Publications/ 
Faculty_Publications/The_Minds_Eye_spr 

The Mind's Eye, a journal of scholarly and creative work, is published annually by 
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. While emphasizing articles of scholarly merit, 
The Mind's Eye focuses on a general communication of ideas of interest to a liberal arts 
college. We welcome expository essays, including reviews, as well as fiction, poetry and 
art. Please refer to the inside back cover for a list of writer's guidelines. 

A yearly subscription to The Mind's Eye is $7.50. Send check or money order to The 
Mind's Eye, c/o Frances Jones-Sneed, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, 375 Church 
Street, North Adams, MA 01247. 



2 The Mind's Eye 



Mind's Eye 



2013 

IN THIS ISSUE 4 

ARTICLES: 

Reconstructing the University Classroom as if It Were a Preschool 

Dale Borman Fink 6 

Architecture and the Art of Discovery 

Gideon Fink Shapiro 16 

Excerpts from A World Transformed: The Art of Jessica Park 

Tony Gengarelly 22 

A Storm of Exceptions: On Being a 21st Century Artist-Teacher 

Greg Scheckler 30 

Undergraduate Happiness: Some Preliminary Field Notes from the Classroom 
Jennifer Zoltanski 47 

Reflections on the Craft of Teaching 

Glenn A. Crosby 61 

How Do You Learn Science? 

Nick Stroud 67 

Teaching and Learning with Henry Giroux 

Seth Kershner 70 

Gold and the Night Watchman's Daughter 

Ben Jacques 78 

POETRY: 

Advice to Students or You Deserve the Fairy Wings 

Melissa Quirk Cairns 82 

Four Prose Poems. Selections From Eros & Place. 

Annie Raskin 86 

Educators 

Akili Carter 91 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS 92 



The Mind's Eye 3 



From the Editor 



"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery" 

With this quotation from Mark Van Doren, we issued our call for 
contributions to this theme issue on learning and teaching. Van 
Doren (1894-1972) was a novelist, editor and poet who joined 
the Columbia University faculty upon receiving his Ph.D. there in 1920, and 
where he continued to teach for 40 years. Among the many students who 
revered him were poets Allen Ginsberg and John Berryman. 

With Van Doren's words as a jumping-off point, we invited authors to 
address learning and teaching at any stage of life, outside classrooms as well 
as within them. We are delighted to present a diverse and thought-provoking 
palette of responses to our call. 

We showcase the work of three poets. The narrative voice in Carter's 
poem "Educators" is that of a learner, while Quirk Cairns ("Advice to 
Students or You Deserve the Fairy Wings") speaks as a teacher. Raskins 
prose poems (selections from a still-in-progress cycle) represent neither side 
of this dichotomy, but describe settings and situations in which insight or 
understanding may be subtly acquired, with or without intentionality. 

Three authors investigate learning and teaching outside the classroom. 
Stroud ("How Do You Learn Science?") encounters a mobile teaching 
application during a walk in the woods, and builds on this encounter to 
envision ever-broader landscapes as venues for learning. Fink Shapiro 
("Architecture and Environmental Discovery") compares certain buildings 
and landscapes to "unforgettable teachers." He describes spaces that silently 
communicate to our senses and sensibilities, and thereby transform our 
understandings. Kershner prefaces a dialogue with Henry Giroux ("Teaching 
and Learning with Henry Giroux") by recalling the work of C. Wright Mills 
on the "cultural apparatus." The author and his interlocutor discuss the ways 
in which the "public pedagogy" of the Internet, entertainment industries, and 
other cultural interventions may both reshape and marginalize the "education" 
students get during their hours of schooling. 

4 The Mind's Eye 



Two authors examine the influences that can shape a person toward a 
life in art. An excerpt from a forthcoming book by Gengarelly (A World 
Transformed: The Art of Jessica Park) shows us how teachers, peers, places, and 
family all played a role in nurturing Ms. Park's ability to draw and paint, and 
thereby also drew her to some degree out of the cocoon of autism. Scheckler 
("A Storm of Exceptions: On Being a 21st Century Artist-Teacher") traces 
the author's ramshackle trajectory toward life as maker and teacher of art, 
incorporating tears in a pizza shop, setbacks on a ski mountain, and sideways 
glances at Michelangelo, Lewitt, and Basquiat. 

Two authors seek to appraise the feelings and perceptions of students 
in their university classrooms. Jacques ("Gold and the Night Watchman's 
Daughter") ruminates on a single episode of reading Whitman during a class. 
The poet asserts, in Jacques' words, "happiness is not tied to wealth, but to 
other human beings." Do the students get that message? He unearths some 
shards of evidence that they do. Zoltanski's quest to gauge the emotional 
state of undergraduates is an empirical one ("Undergraduate Happiness: 
Some Preliminary Field Notes from the Classroom"). She created a course 
on the sociology of happiness, and shares what she is learning from and about 
students. 

Two of our authors, Fink ("Reconstructing the University Classroom as 
if it were a Preschool") and Crosby ("Reflections on the Craft of Teaching"), 
take a crack at describing their own teaching methods. Fink rejects the 
sedentary role of the student, to which he was subjected as an undergraduate, 
and proposes that college students deserve opportunities for active learning 
akin to what is available in high-quality early childhood settings. Crosby 
affirms the value of a good lecture, one that has been properly thought out and 
prepared. One important step, he advises, is for the aspiring lecturer to think 
carefully about the distinction between teaching and entertainment. Another 
is to eat a hearty breakfast. 

We recommend taking this issue of The Mind's Eye along with breakfast. 
Whatever time of day you get to it, we look forward to hearing your comments. 

Dale Borman Fink, Ph.D. 
Guest Editor 



The Mind's Eye 5 



Reconstructing the 
University Classroom as if It 
Were a Preschool 

BY DALE BORMAN FINK 



When I went to college, the professors "taught" and the students 
took notes. Exams and papers were the sole mechanisms by 
which faculty evaluated our learning. Audio-visuals (at least in 
the humanities, education, and social science courses I took) were nearly non- 
existent. There was never any kind of work with peers — except in one famous 
Social Relations class that had peer interaction as its sole curriculum. I never 
took a class in which a student made a presentation or displayed a poster. This 
was at Harvard, and there were among my professors some gifted and inspir- 
ing lecturers. So this method of instruction worked well for me — for three or 
four semesters. 

By the time I was a junior, I felt alienated by the omnipresent lecture hall. 
Although I loved Balzac, Dickens, and Dostoevsky, I no longer could sit pas- 
sively and listen — even to a well-known scholar — discourse twice a week on 
these great authors whose novels were the subject of one course I took. The 
"tutorials" and seminars were more palatable because they were discussions 
rather than lectures, and were intensively up-close-and-personal. But there 
were no instructional methods beyond the basics: (a) texts, lots of texts; (b) 
discussing texts; (c) writing about texts. 

6 The Mind's Eye 



Dale Borman Fink 



During my final year in college, I began working with preschool-aged 
children at KLH Child Development Center in Cambridge, MA, one of the 
first employer-sponsored childcare centers in the country. The Center was 
founded and staffed by visionary educators and leaders, and I got to see how 
young children assimilated and mastered language, social skills, science, lit- 
eracy, and math concepts in a supportive environment, in which adults facili- 
tated their learning but did not force them to run a preconceived curricular 
gauntlet. I saw that children learned through their senses, through engage- 
ment with peers, and through interaction with all aspects of the indoor and 
outdoor environment. I saw that when adults didn't get in their way or overly 
intrude on how they spent their time, these young learners immersed them- 
selves in all kinds of investigations, and turned to adults for information, for 
social problem solving, and for nurturing. I became vaguely and bewilder- 
ingly aware that the social and intellectual discourse surrounding me at the 
childcare center had a deeper, richer, and more authentic quality than what I 
experienced at Harvard. 

A few years later, I obtained a Master's in early childhood education, and 
came to realize that the approach to learning I witnessed at KLH (and by then, 
in some other places, too) was not the whimsical product of the particular 
personalities there, but was consistent with a multi-generational tradition of 
American "nursery education," and supported by theorists like Dewey, Piaget, 
and Montessori. According to this tradition and these theorists, students do 
not assimilate or absorb knowledge by having it handed over or explained by 
someone who knows more, but rather, (to use one of Piaget 's key words) they 
construct knowledge. They do this through hands-on engagement, and by 
developing insights — sometimes including inaccurate ones, which they will 
use their later experiences and observations to correct. 

I looked back on my Ivy League education and found myself perplexed. 
Given this well-documented understanding of how human learning takes 
place, why did my professors restrict themselves to such a limited repertoire 
of instructional modalities? In calling it "higher education," did our society 
mean to untether it from the human imperatives that affect everyone else? 
Did someone believe that students at age 18 (or for that matter, 48) no longer 
benefited from peer interaction, multi-sensory input, carrying out indepen- 
dent investigations, or having a chance to construct — and then later correct — 
their own understandings? 

By the time I became a faculty member in higher education, a few de- 
cades had passed. I wasn't sure what teaching methods other faculty mem- 
bers used anymore. But I wanted to bring to my students richer and deeper 



The Mind's Eye 7 



Dale Borman Fink 



opportunities to think and learn than were given to me as an undergraduate. 
I wanted to teach college like an early childhood educator. 

You are entering a learning zone: no teacher required 

A high-quality early childhood setting is thoughtfully designed to en- 
courage students to work independently; arriving students do not wait for 
a teacher to come to the front of the room and signal that it's time to begin 
learning. Quite the opposite: the children presume they should get busy on 
their own, unless and until the teacher signals them to put away what they 
are working on and, for example, assemble for a "morning meeting." Arriv- 
ing students typically hang up their coats, transfer a card with their name on 
it to a display board that indicates they are present, perhaps (if this is a public 
school) make a notation on a list as to whether they brought lunch or will need a 
cafeteria lunch, greet their friends, and (if they can read) find a morning assign- 
ment handwritten on a flipchart or a whiteboard. If the classroom features living 
animals, the morning assignment could be to observe the animal in its habitat and 
record observations in a science journal. In preschool or kindergarten, time may 
be available to build with blocks, put on a smock and paint at the easel, engage in 
the dramatic play area, take out a puzzle, look at books, or draw independently. 

Through this approach, learners do not acquire a view of the teacher as 
the sole, or even primary, provider of information and instruction. Rather, 
they know that a teacher can fulfill a variety of helpful roles: assist you in 
finding a book in the library corner, tie on a smock, or record words that you 
dictate on your painting or drawing. Not being at the front of the classroom 
or at the center of the learning process frees the teacher to circulate among the 
students, building relationships by engaging in personal conversations and 
carrying out informal assessment. The teacher, thus freed, can scaffold the 
play or efforts of individual students, at whatever level of support each one 
needs. ("Scaffolding" was a term favored by the Soviet scholar Lev Vygotsky, 
whose work I did not encounter during my studies in early childhood educa- 
tion. His work was contemporaneous with the early work of Piaget, but was 
unknown by educators in our country until the 1980s.) 

Sign in, begin learning 

Students in my university classes know to sign in on an attendance sheet, 
and then find a card (a folded 3x5 colored index card) with her or his name 
on it. After that, she or he looks for a handout or something posted on the 
whiteboard, detailing an in-class assignment. It could be a web search with 
an expectation of reporting later to classmates. There could be time allotted 

8 The Mind's Eye 



Dale Borman Fink 



for reading an article, with each student or each set of partners summarizing a 
portion of the article. It could be taking a practice test, independently or with 
a partner, to review something we studied recently. 

While class members work semi-independently, I scaffold individual stu- 
dents' learning and build relationships with them. I monitor activities, consult 
with small groups or partners, and feed them ideas if they are stuck. I infor- 
mally assess how well they have grasped concepts recently covered. This also 
is a time to trouble-shoot issues concerning recent assignments or answer 
questions about grades. Students can seek to speak to me privately during this 
time period, or I can initiate a private conversation as needed. 

Hold the syllabus; start the engagement 

Most students arrive at the first meeting of a new course with the expec- 
tation that they can be passive and sedentary. There haven't been any reading 
assignments yet, so how could they be expected to participate actively? Expe- 
rience also has taught them that the first class will be "organizational," rather 
than content-focused. I design the first class meeting to deliberately challenge 
these expectations. I do not even introduce myself, let alone discuss the syl- 
labus. As soon as they set foot inside the classroom door, I involve them in a 
content-focused activity that requires interaction with peers. 

My Children's Literature students sometimes arrive on the first day of 
class to find the chairs arranged in clusters of four. A copy of Goodnight Moon 
by Margaret Wise Brown is available for each group, along with a handout 
defining roles they should choose (facilitator, reader, reporter), and a list of 
guiding questions to consider as they read and analyze the text and illustra- 
tions. In another class, students are asked to find a partner and work on a 
"quiz" together. The topics on the quiz foreshadow what we will study in the 
months to come. In a graduate special education course on Assessment, I sep- 
arate the students into two groups, one to craft a "strength-based assessment" 
of Helen Keller, and the other to draft a "deficit-based assessment." They then 
watch a few scenes from the 1960s film, The Miracle Worker, in which young 
Helen meets her teacher, the legendary Annie Sullivan, for the first time. The 
assignment draws on concepts to which the students have not yet been intro- 
duced; in preschool, we call that "discovery learning." 

I circulate among the students once they are occupied with the assigned 
tasks, and welcome them individually in a way I could not if I were to lead the 
class from a lectern. Then I exit the classroom for a few minutes. I want them 
to see that — so long as I have properly prepared the learning environment — 
their learning does not require my presence. 



The Mind's Eye 9 



Dale Borman Fink 




Uncovering, discovering, and constructing knowledge: Dale Finkwatches as two of his 
students, with magnifying glass and bug catcher in hand, search for living organisms 
to show their classmates. 



Engage bodies, emotions, and aesthetic sensibilities — not just minds 

In early childhood education, we call it "teaching the whole child." We 
do not confine our role to supporting children's "minds" (i.e., cognitive or in- 
tellectual growth). Preschoolers need support in the areas of physical/motor, 
social/cultural, emotional, and aesthetic development. I have not found any 
reason to approach learners at other stages of life differently. Some university 
students will deepen their engagement with a text if I give out markers, pen- 
cils, and paper, and ask them to respond through visual or artistic representa- 
tion. Some resonate to musical thinking. When one of my students developed 
a demonstration lesson for third graders on the water cycle, I challenged her 
to create a rap using the words, "accumulation, precipitation, condensation, 
and evaporation." After they studied how an author of a contemporary chil- 
dren's book reinterpreted a Native American fable, I asked students what they 
knew about reinterpretation in other creative arts forms. One student eagerly 
introduced classmates to Tori Amos's version of the song, "Smells like Teen 
Spirit." We listened in class to Nirvana's original recording and then to the reinter- 
pretation, and searched together for themes or concepts that might be applied to 
the act of reinterpreting across the boundaries of literature and music. 



10 The Mind's Eye 



Dale Borman Fink 



I look for texts that will touch deep places of emotion in students. A 
favored fictional text related to education is Crow Boy, a 1955 picture book 
by Taro Yashima, about a poor peasant boy in rural Japan who is rejected and 
scorned by his classmates. 

Sometimes there is no need for a text. Can you and your partner set up 
these dominoes in the shape of a "Y" and make them fall? What did you need 
to "know" in order to complete that task? Of what physics properties did you 
have to take account? What do you think a younger child would get from 
doing this activity? 1 

Take some play dough and some cookie cutters and other implements, 
and begin playing. Feel free to talk and work together with your friends at 
the same table. After a while, put away the play dough and jot down some 
notes. What kinds of learning and development do you think go on at a table 
like this, when three-and four-year- olds are playing with play dough? What 
do you think a teacher should be doing (and not doing) to support learning 
during this activity? 

Most classroom activities allow students to get out of their seats and move 
about (e.g., small groups can work in the corridor if they prefer). The proportion 
of time students spend in my classes when they have to sit in one place is relative- 
ly small. In addition, they know that, at any time, they may move, change seats, 
stand, stretch, or take a break from class without asking for permission. That's one 
of the ground rules I announce at the first meeting of every course. 

After a literature circle, some drawing, playing with materials, reading an 
article, or a web-based activity, we reconvene as a group and share what we've 
learned. When I am able to come across as a facilitator rather than as the main 
provider of information, I then have moved to the role I want to occupy, and 
have allowed students to take more responsibility for constructing their own 
understandings. 

Build social support, scaffold new connections 

When a preschooler arrives for her first day, what signals her that some- 
one is looking forward to her arrival? She finds a cubby labeled with her 
name. I have no cubbies, but I tell students that — like at a wedding or a bar 
mitzvah — they each have to find their name on a card. They see that I made at 
least a small effort to welcome them, and I believe that searching on a table for 
their name preprinted in a large font and taped onto a colored card gives them 
something to focus on, instead of being nervous about a new class. 

1 I adapted this activity from Ozaki, Yamamoto, and Kamii (2008). What do children learn by 
trying to produce the domino effect? Young Children 63, 5, pp. 58-64. 

The Mind's Eye 1 1 



Dale Borman Fink 



In addition to helping me learn their names, the cards serve other pur- 
poses unknown to the students. I color-code the cards so that long before I 
have learned names, I know by the color whether I am calling on a first-year 
student or a senior. When I want them to find a partner or work in a small 
group, I don't need to say, "Please choose someone who is not your roommate 
or best friend." I simply instruct them to find a partner whose name card has 
a color different from their own, or form a group that includes one of each 
color. This assures they'll be with students of diverse graduating classes. Con- 
versely, there are times when I want the first-years to convene in a discussion 
group together, and all the seniors, too. The color-coding easily allows me to 
do that, as well. 

Later in the semester, when I know the students, I sometimes create 
groups of my own choosing by placing selected name cards on chairs that 
are set up before students arrive. At other times, students have free choice 
to form their own groups — but after a couple of months, they draw from a 
larger circle of acquaintances than would have been possible at the start of the 
semester. My goal in small group work, aside from taking myself out of the 
center of the learning process, is both to build on the natural supports that 
some class members are eager to provide to one another, and also to challenge 
learners to form new connections. The methods I use enable me to subtly 
encourage connections that cross generation, gender, ethnicity, and cultural 
backgrounds, as well as anticipated year of graduation. 

Have them write papers for someone else — not for professors! 

College students — and graduate students even more so — like to impress 
faculty with their mastery of conceptual language and their use of arcane, 
field-specific vocabulary. It is not the students' fault; years of training and ex- 
perience seem to have convinced many of them that filling their papers with 
euphonious, polysyllabic phraseology is a surefire route toward a high mark. 
I used to provide detailed feedback, requesting that students be more consis- 
tent in illustrating concepts with clear examples, and replace jargon whenever 
possible with more widely recognized words. But eventually, I figured out a 
better strategy: stop writing papers for me. Write the paper for a different 
audience. 

Students learning to be early childhood educators have to write a letter to 
a disgruntled parent. "Why is my daughter playing with marbles and ramps 
when I come to pick her up?" the parent wants to know. "Is the teacher too 
tired at the end of the day to work with her on her letters, or read her a sto- 
rybook?" 

12 The Mind's Eye 



Dale Borman Fink 



Students becoming elementary teachers read The Curious Incident of the 
Dog in the Night-Time (Haddon, 2005) and then have to pretend the narra- 
tor, Christopher, was a student in their classroom this year. (He is 17 in the 
book, and has many characteristics that appear to place him on the autism/ 
Asperger's spectrum. They imagine what he would have been like as a fourth 
grader.) The assignment is to write a letter to the fifth grade teacher who will 
have Christopher next fall. That colleague wants to know, "warts and all," what 
it will be like to have this boy in her classroom. The teacher works just down 
the hall from you, and she's counting on your insights and recommendations 
for how to get off on the right foot. 

Students who study to be special educators read a published case study 
that details problems of professional practice in an actual school district in 
West Virginia. The good news, delivered in the form of an assignment, is: You 
just got a new job! The bad news? You're the new special education director in 
Rainelle County, West Virginia! The superintendent who hired you requests 
that you write a letter to those you will be supervising, identifying the key 
issues unearthed in the case study, and suggesting ways the district can address 
these challenges. My hope is that, in constructing this letter, my students will leave 
me out of their thoughts and focus on how to make the right impression on those 
reading this letter. (This tactic succeeds with many students, but not all.) 

When we don't know the answers, our students can surprise us 

One of my early childhood mentors at the University of Illinois, Lilian 
Katz, believed it was disrespectful to ask a child a question whose answer you 
already knew. If you did, you were just "testing" them, and not having an hon- 
est conversation. I do give exams where there are correct answers. However, I 
try to allocate as many assignments and as much class time as possible to pro- 
mote authentic exploration, analysis, or discussion in which there are no pre- 
conceived or correct answers. Students gain confidence in their own thinking 
when they participate in inquiry and have some autonomy over the subjects 
of their inquiries; that is what I learned as an early childhood educator. 

Go to the website that displays special education data for every school 
district in our state, I tell my students. Choose a town or city anywhere in 
Massachusetts. (They choose towns where they have lived or to which they 
have some connection or interest, which drives up their interest in the task.) 
Write the names of the town or city you've chosen on the whiteboard. Record 
the percentage of students in the selected district who receive special educa- 
tion supports and the breakdown into categories (i.e., what percentage have 
been labeled with "learning disabilities," what percent "autism," etc.) From 



The Mind's Eye 13 



Dale Borman Fink 



another table, record what percent are fully included in classes with their typi- 
cal peers, compared to the percentage who spend their days in segregated set- 
tings. I can use my knowledge of general trends to anticipate certain results 
and patterns, and to ask probing questions to help them put the numbers they 
find in context. However, there is tremendous variation across communities, 
and I cannot account for all that they uncover. I become a co-investigator with 
them in interpreting the data. 

When I assign my Children's Literature students to analyze the use of 
colors (and black and white) by illustrator Clement Hurd in Margaret Wise 
Browns The Runaway Bunny, or to interpret the references to watches, clocks, 
and time in Brian Selznicks The Invention of Hugo Cabret, it is because puz- 
zlements have occurred in my own reading of the work. I am not guiding 
students toward somehow equaling my own level of erudition on the subject 
matter! I often feel anything but erudite, and I honestly hope at least one or 
two of them will guide me to a deeper understanding of the work. Some 
students, even if they never expand my own understanding, take extra time 
to reflect, when they realize that their contributions are not being matched 
against predetermined "right answers." 

When students surpass the professors — how do we assess them? 

The deans office at my university has worked for several years to identify 
and then measure "outcomes" in various areas of the higher education curric- 
ulum. Within the creative arts, for instance, we have devised assignments to 
assess students' ability to find and then analyze and interpret motifs, whether 
in musical passages, poetry, painting, film, or literature. 

We are to use the results of a single assignment to classify students as "ex- 
emplary," "proficient," "developing," or "not acceptable" on this learning out- 
come. To earn the top score (as defined in a rubric), a student has to find all 
of the motifs in the work, and then describe and thoughtfully analyze them. 
Clearly, this rubric presumes that professors must already have found each 
and every motif there is to find in the works students are asked to examine. 

I thought more about this rubric and these assumptions when one of 
my students was giving a class presentation on the text and illustrations of 
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. She did not comment on the 
resonance of the words that Max, the young protagonist, used when sending 
the Wild Things to bed without their supper. She failed to notice that he used 
the same words on the Wild Things that Max's mother used toward him. In 
other words, my student missed at least one very salient motif. However, she 
identified a pattern and variation that I had not discerned in my dozens of 

14 The Mind's Eye 



Dale Borman Fink 



previous readings of this celebrated work. She noticed that as Max begins to 
encounter the Wild Things, they have borders around them. But as the reader 
turns the pages and follows Max deeper into his fantasy, the border extends 
closer to the edges of the pages and finally, during a Wild Rumpus, the Wild 
Things break the boundaries of the page borders. There are no more borders, 
no more boundaries at all; Sendaks painted forest and characters cover every 
square centimeter of the paper and leave no room for white space, borders, or 
words. My student explained that, to her, this breaking of the borders seemed 
to parallel and represent the unbounded nature of Max's imagination, as he 
went deeper on his inward journey. 

Is it important that we be able to classify each student on a scale from 
"not acceptable" to "exemplary"? If it be important, then where on this scale 
do we place a student like this, whose depth of insight outpaces her professor 
in some ways, even while lagging behind him in others? 

Jean Piaget, the Swiss biologist who became one of the 20th century's 
leading child development theorists, divided education into two types — pas- 
sive and active. To choose between these two, he explained, we must clarify 
our goal. "Must we shape children and individuals who are simply capable 
of learning what is already known? To repeat what has been acquired by the 
preceding generations? Or is it about shaping innovative, creative minds?" 2 

I think Piaget would have recognized in my student's discourse on Sendak 
the mark of an innovative, creative mind, born of being an active, rather than 
a passive, learner. The increasing focus on educational outcomes embodied in 
rubrics is not designed to promote learning, but to facilitate measurement and 
comparison across disciplines and institutions. It has the potential to devalue 
the kind of creative engagement with subject matter this student demonstrat- 
ed, and take us backward to the kinds of sedentary educational environments 
that were in vogue when I was an undergraduate. Instead of retreating, why 
not move forward to envision how the learning spaces and pedagogy of a uni- 
versity can excite the imagination and support the quest for knowledge? If we 
commit ourselves to that project, I am confident that we university professors 
can support learning and thinking as well as our colleagues in high-quality 
early childhood settings across the country and the world. 



2 From the opening minutes of the film, "Piaget's Developmental Theory: An Overview" (1989, 
Films Media Group). The English translations are my own, not those given in the subtitles. 



The Mind's Eye 15 



Architecture and the Art of 
Discovery 

BY GIDEON FINK SHAPIRO 



Architecture gets in trouble when it tries directly to instruct. Didactic 
architecture tends to come off as heavy-handed or contrived. But 
architecture at its best is an art of assisting discovery, to recall Mark 
Van Doren's formulation of teaching. Beyond accommodating a given set 
of practical functions, architecture may reveal a web of social, physical, and 
environmental relationships. Good architecture allows its users to discover 
something about its milieu according to the interests and imagination with 
which they engage it. Like unforgettable teachers, certain buildings and 
landscapes can move us to stretch to apprehend things that we didn't realize 
even existed, but which, once discovered, we cannot live without. Or, like the 
world of chemistry that I discovered in high school with the help of a great 
teacher, some architecture fades from memory in its particulars, but leaves 
intact the scorching thrill of experiencing it. 



16 The Mind's Eye 



Gideon Fink Shapiro 



Made of relatively inert materials, architecture must communicate si- 
lently, indirectly, relying on visitors to use their own senses and sensibilities 
to take in their surroundings. The lack of a common iconographical language 
today makes this challenge all the more interesting. Whereas architects of 
past centuries used agreed-upon forms and symbols to broadcast their in- 
tentions, no one today is expected to know the semiotic differences between 
the ancient Doric and Corinthian orders. But we still want to know where 
we are. And discovering where we are, and how we fit in with our environ- 
ment — particularly in a world of sometimes disorienting mobility, virtual in- 
teractions, and effortless consumption — is something that architecture can 
facilitate. It does so by giving shape to the relations and ideals by which we 
understand our environment, and mediating those relations. It allows us to 
discover a sense of topography encompassing both cultural and ecological 
values. 1 

We trace our path of discovery through the built environment from in- 
fancy. It is through domestic architecture and its thresholds, for example, 
that many of us first discover the complex cultural expectations of privacy 
and togetherness. The architect Richard Neutra, who authored a physiologi- 
cal theory of architecture in the 1950s, insisted that the textures, lighting, 
and smells of the home and school environments could profoundly influence 
a child's health and relationship to the world. 2 Even for adults, discovery 
presupposes not erudition but a kind of naivete. To be prepared to discover 
something you must not already have all the answers. 

One of my earliest memories of architecture as a trigger for discovery was 
an igloo-shaped fort of branches and leaves at the edge of the woods in rural 
Pennsylvania. It was built by my friend's older (adolescent) brothers, who in- 
vited us for a look. After guiding us through fields and trees, they repaired the 
roof by tossing fresh heaps of leaves over the lattice of intersecting branches. 
We ducked inside to sit in a circle and talk about serious things amidst the 
filtered half-light. For me, this excursion to the fort amounted to the dis- 
covery of a locus, a place, a clearing. The fort defined a particular gathering 
place in a hitherto alien and limitless countryside. It seemed to cement our 
friendship with a pact consisting of the shared experience of inhabiting (and 
for them, constructing) a space. And it changed the way I saw the fallen veg- 
etal matter of the forest, which came alive as the potential building materials 
for future Utopian hideouts. This improvised work of architecture made the 
woods seem more beautiful and the friends more special, and thus prompted 
me to care more about them both. 



The Mind's Eye 17 



Gideon Fink Shapiro 

The do-it-yourself fort apparently was the motivating principle behind the 
urban "adventure playgrounds" that sprung up in London and elsewhere af- 
ter the Second World War. Strewn with bricks, timber, tires, and tools — mar- 
ginally enhanced debris from bombed-out city lots — adventure playgrounds 
were designed to give kids the means to discover and develop their power 
to shape their environment. But what about adults? In the early 1960s, the 
British architect Cedric Price applied the logic of the adventure playground 
to a radical leisure space for adults, never built, called Fun Palace. In col- 
laboration with the London theater director Joan Littlewood, Price designed 
a multi-story structure brimming with user-friendly architectural machinery 
derived from backstage theater apparatus. Visitors, like renegade stage techs, 
would have the ability to perpetually modify and experiment with their envi- 
ronment. 3 In this equation, discovery in architecture was synonymous with 
the freedom to build. There were intriguing social implications as well: would 
equal rights to reshape architectural space imply equal rights to reshape society? 

On the opposite end of the spectrum lies the un-playful architecture of 
monuments, freighted with the ponderous duties of memorialization and sig- 
nification. Can such serious architecture really assist discovery? Is there any- 
thing left to discover after you've read what you're told to read and admired 
what you're told to admire? Yes, there can be. Take, for example, the newly 




Cedric Price, Interior perspective of Fun Palace, ca. 1960-1 964. This project, which Price 
conceived with theater director Joan Littlewood, was a vision for letting visitors shape 
their own environment as a stage for interaction. 

Credit: Cedric Price fonds, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal 



18 The Mind's Eye 



Gideon Fink Shapiro 




FDR Four Freedom's Park, a newly opened memorial completed four decades after its 
design, invites visitors to ascribe their own significance to the landscape. 



Credit: Photo by author 

opened Four Freedoms Park, situated on a four-acre memorial to Franklin 
D. Roosevelt on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in New York City, over- 
looking the United Nations. The project makes teaching immanent in the 
encounter between architecture, landscape, and visitor. The design — by Louis 
I. Kahn in 1973-74, executed posthumously — downplays the semantic direc- 
tives in favor of evocative spatial-material experience. Like Stonehenge, it is 
abstract and mysteriously silent. The climax of the memorial comes at the end 
of an austere garden; an open-air "room" enclosed on three sides by towering 
slabs of granite, thirty-six tons each, separated by exactly one inch. The fourth 
side is open to the East River, the skyline, and the horizon. 

With light trickling through the cracks, this primal gathering space feels 
intimate as well as monumental; delicate as well as solid. One perceives up 
close the swirling tidal waterways surrounding the metropolis, sometimes 
threatening it; but also the accrual of millions of actions that keep the city 
alive and somehow make it possible to conceive of peace, as the founders 
of the United Nations once did. On a recent visit to Four Freedoms Park, I 
wondered how New York's shoreline could be made more resilient in the face 
of rising sea levels. I thought about its beginnings and endings. As I remembered 



The Mind's Eye 19 



Gideon Fink Shapiro 

and projected, this space gave me the feeling that the city belonged in the land- 
scape, and that I belonged in it. It brought me to a threshold of participation in 
the vital, yet fragile, enterprise of urban civilization. 

A more quotidian but no less inspired new waterfront space is Brooklyn 
Bridge Park, a complex of six former shipping piers and warehouses con- 
verted into public parkland by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. Here 
you can discover important technical and ecological functions of landscape 
while having fun. The stormwater collection system creates a promenade and 
irrigates the plants. The rolling contours of the lawn — created with fill from 
recent Manhattan subway excavations — serve to block traffic noise from a 
nearby expressway. The rough boulders along the water's edge, which help 
break the force of tidal surges, contain a kayak launch and beach. You can 
run yourself ragged playing soccer, or you can sit on the amphitheater steps 
and watch the sun set over the skyline as Brooklyn's diverse population strolls 
by. The park accommodates rising sea levels not with a giant barrier, but with 
intelligent and delightful landscape infrastructure that allows us to become 
intimate with the waterfront. Perhaps playing by the shore will make us pay 
more attention to the water— and to the ecosystems and economies that de- 
pend on it. 




Unfolding views of the interior, terrace, and the landscape from the ramp at Le Corbusier's 
Villa Savoye in Poissy, France (1928). 

Credit: End User 4 via Flickr (Creative Commons license) 



20 The Mind's Eye 



Gideon Fink Shapiro 



The architect Le Corbusier often is remembered for calling the Villa Sa- 
voye (1928) a machine a habiter, or a machine for living. Less well remem- 
bered, however, is another phrase that he used to describe the same proj- 
ect: machine a emouvoir, or machine to arouse emotion. At least for some 
visitors, the square, white house of steel, glass, and stucco at Poissy, France, 
engenders an almost spiritual self-reflection and environmental awareness. 
Villa Savoye makes its first impression from afar, hovering on slender poles 
above a grassy field. To enter it is to embark on an "architectural promenade" 
and montage: a continuous winding ramp passes through the various living 
areas all the way up to the semi-enclosed roof terrace, providing a sequence 
of carefully framed views. Every step reveals new spatial relationships, turn- 
ing the elevated square structure into a rigorous dance connecting inside and 
outside. You sense the newness of the age of the automobile and film, but 
also a yearning for harmony between modern technology, the inner psyche, 
and the wider landscape. Had Le Corbusier known about Van Doren's phi- 
losophy of teaching, he might have added a third term to his list, machine a 
decouvrir — a machine for discovery. 



Endnotes 

1 I borrow this use of "topography" from David Leatherbarrow, Topographi- 
cal Stories: Studies in Landscape and Architecture. Philadelphia: University 
of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. 

2 Richard J. Neutra, Survival through Design. New York: Oxford University 
Press, 1954. See especially ch. 21. 

3 See Stanley Mathews, From Agit-Prop to Free Space: The Architecture of 
Cedric Price. London: Black Dog, 2007. 



The Mind's Eye 21 



A World Transformed: 
The Art of Jessica Park 



BY TONY GENGARELLY 



Introduction 

With the following excerpt, The Mind's Eye continues its tradition 
of publishing the winner of the Faculty Incentive Award for best 
lecture. Submissions for this award are judged by a commit- 
tee of faculty peers at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Professor Tony 
Gengarelly received the 2012 award for the pre-publication manuscript of his 
book, A World Transformed: The Art of Jessica Park. This book follows other 
scholarly activities Gengarelly has carried out relating to the art of Jessica 
Park, an artist with autism who was born in North Adams (where MCLA 
is located) in 1958, and continues to live in nearby Williamstown. With his 
students, he has mounted several major exhibitions of her work. In 2008, he 
published a compilation of her paintings, with commentaries. 

The chapters we are publishing here, "Budding Talent," and "First 
Blooms," trace the early years of Jessicas pursuit of artistic expression. They 
eloquently address the theme of this issue of The Mind's Eye, in which authors 
are examining teaching and learning in their innumerable variations. 

22 The Mind's Eye 



Tony Gengarelly 



Access to schooling was one ingredient that nurtured Jessicas artistry — 
thanks to the fact that Massachusetts spearheaded the mandate to assure all 
children with disabilities an individualized, appropriate education, several 
years in advance of the rest of the nation. Once the doors to schooling were 
opened, this excerpt shows, it was in part the instructional opportunities that 
aided her. But equally important was the influence of peers — not the "peer 
group" in a general sense, but two very specific peers, highly motivated twin 
girls who liked Jessica, took an interest in her, and nurtured her artwork. 

These two chapters also identify the impact of place and space on Jessicas 
creative learning process. The subjects of her art in the early years were those 
places and spaces — and furnishings and mechanical gadgets and doors, as well 
as people, that were a familiar part of her life. Beyond this published excerpt, 
the narrative details how Jessica eventually would render striking images of the 
Brooklyn Bridge, and the Taj Mahal, among many other well-known structures. 
These chapters show us the beginnings in her teens and 20s. 

A World Transformed is an art biography that reaches beyond labels and 
stereotypes to focus on the artist and her artistry, as well as the person who is 
revealed through her art. Replete with full color examples of her work, this por- 
trait of the artist features several interpretive illustrations by Danielle Christensen 
(MCLA 201 1). Readers who wish to acquire the book from which we excerpt 
these chapters are encouraged to contact the author, at a.gengarelly@mcla.edu. 




Jessica Park in her bedroom-studio, circa 1 972 



The Mind's Eye 23 



Tony Gengarelly 
Budding Talent 

As a result of a Massachusetts law that made public education for stu- 
dents with disabilities mandatory (one of the first in the United States), Jes- 
sica entered Mount Greylock Regional High School shortly after her 12th 
birthday in the fall of 1970. In art class, she met twin sisters about her own 
age, Anna and Diana Saldo, who would become lifelong friends. They took 
a shine to Jessica, noticed her ability to draw, and appointed themselves her 
art teachers. Anna and Diana followed the school's curriculum but they ex- 
tended Jessica's art lessons to moments at the Parks' summer home on Block 
Island. 

There, they coached her in drawing a variety of subjects, including an 
arresting portrait of Jessica's father, David. The artist's foot in the foreground 
implies that she was sitting on the bed to render this drawing. Jessica chose 
to include her foot in the picture because she evidently wanted to represent 
more of the scene than her seated father. One might call this an artist's in- 
spiration or a literal inclusion typical of a person with autism. 




Sketch of David Park, 1973 



24 The Mind's Eye 



Tony Gengarelly 



Jessica's line drawing of her father, with its delicate crosshatching, subtle 
tonal gradations and accomplished proportion, was matched that summer 
with another portrait of one of the twins. These relatively sophisticated draw- 
ings were accomplished in 1973, only one year after Jessica, with crayons and 
stick figures, created The Book about the Songs. Compared with those el- 
ementary drawings, the two portraits revealed a prodigious talent beneath 
Jessica's visual shorthand. This talent continued to surface during her sev- 
eral years in high school, and is confirmed by a number of other pictures, as 
well as her sketchbook from that time. 

Over the years, Jessica's ability to understand and apply color also ex- 
panded. At the age of 14 she learned how to use acrylic paints from another 
good friend of the family, Valerie Pinsky. Valerie, then in her first year of 
college, was Jessica's camp counselor. She also visited the Park family on 
Block Island, and not only inspired The Book about the Songs, but introduced 
the use of acrylic paints. Jessica, thrilled with these new color applications, 
created a series of paintings on discarded wooden shingles. These "shingle 
paintings" were her first adventure with the medium she has used for her 
entire painting career. 

Jessica graduated from Mount Greylock at the age of 21. Although she 
had made great strides in overcoming many of her developmental limitations 
and could read and write, her future was uncertain. She continued to make 
art, which was becoming a daily routine, and to accompany her mother when she 
spoke to groups and organizations about the subject of autism. Clara was deter- 
mined to share her painfully gained insights with a larger audience, and Jessica 
gladly served as the living example of her mother's hard-earned wisdom. 

On one such occasion, when Clara had brought some of Jessica's pictures 
as an illustration of her daughter's artistry, someone spied a painting and 
offered to buy it for a small sum of money. Somewhat surprised, Clara, with 
Jessica's approval, agreed to part with the picture, and an art career was born. 

With encouragement from those who admired and purchased her 
work — family and friends, as well as people who cherished her art as an ex- 
ample of what someone with a developmental disability could do — Jessica 
began to create more and more paintings. 

Now she combined her high school art training with a growing enthu- 
siasm for mechanical gadgets to create two-dimensional pictures of space 
heaters, automobile dashboards, electric -blanket controls and radio dials. 
Jessica still is fascinated by mechanical objects. They appear in her more 
elaborate paintings of other subjects, such as clock towers. 

She embellished her drawings of dials and heaters with an opulent array 



The Mind's Eye 25 



Tony Gengarelly 



of hues that pleased her. The colors also helped highlight important details 
and organize her pictures with their systematic application. The Bathroom 
Heater at Franziska's House from 1981 shows one of Jessica's preferred sub- 
jects arranged as a grid of 792 brightly colored rectangles. She accomplished 
the pattern with the application of one color at a time, a method that she still 
uses today. According to Clara's account in The Siege (1967), Jessica was able 
to see the entire grid in her mind's eye as she carefully laid in the colors. 

This extraordinary application was most likely derived from an ear- 
lier experience of creating systems. From the ages of 12 to 16, Jessica used 
numbers and symbols to represent different emotional responses to sound 
and weather. Her numerical calculations soothed the intensity of an emo- 
tional response; the symbols recorded her levels of pleasure and displeasure. 
When under duress, Jessica calmed herself by doing elaborate calculations 
that ultimately balanced the numbers 3 (a "bad" number) and 7 (a "good" 
number). She made charts and diagrams for her symbolic language. Bright 
sun represented a perfect day or an exceptional sound, but clouds recorded a 
diminished excitement due to weather or other, in Jessica's words, "discour- 
agements." She included doors, scaled 1:4, to mute the intensity of feeling 




All 
Different 
Kinds of 
Days 

"Day 
High" 
(a very, 
very good 
day) Juice 
Level 7 



DAY NOTHING 
DAY HIGH NOTHING 
DAY HIGH 
DAY HIGH PLACE 
DAY PLACE 
DAY CENTER 
DAY NO 
DAY BASE 
DAY DARK 
DAY CLOUD 
DAY ALL 

DAY HIGH CLOUD 

DAY DARK CLOUD 

DAY BASE DARK 

DAY HIGH DARK 

DAY HIGH DARK CLOUD 

DAY NOTHING SQUARE j 

NO DAY THING 

DAY BAD 

DAY BUMP 

DAY PLACE MUSIC 

DAY HIGH PLACE MUSIC 

DAY DARK MUSIC 



DAY SUNLIGHT 

DAY SUN 

DAYUGHT 

DAY HIGH SUN 

DAY HIGH CLOUD SUN 

DAY HIGH MOON CLOUD 



37003 
35703 



IMAGINARY DAYS 



33/K 

s w 

3V« 



73fc9 
597529 
72H301 



Illustration by Danielle Christensen (MCLA 201 1 ); Jessica's chart found in 
David Parkand Philip Youderian, "Light and Number: Ordering Principles 
in the World of an Autistic Child," Journal of Autism and Childhood 
Schizophrenia 4.4 (1 974). 



26 The Minds Eye 



Tony Gengarelly 



when it was, in her words, "too good." She even used a drinking glass with 
numbered lines on it to record her reaction to the day. For instance, line 
seven on the glass indicated "Day High" or a very, very good day. These 
early efforts with ordering principles were echoed in the colored grids on Jes- 
sica's heaters, dials, and blanket controls. The color grid eventually became 
a compositional anchor for her art. 

First Blooms 

Jessica also explored different subjects during this time, as she continued 
to work on the elements of picture making. Fascinated by railroad crossings, 
she created an abstract rendition for her brother in 1980. The tracks are ver- 
tical against a flat background. At this point, Jessica had yet to learn how to 
represent a scene realistically. Her perspective is askew, the tracks misplaced 
and the background a minimalist band of colors. Jessica set about "improv- 
ing" the picture, largely by her own efforts. The Railroad Crossing in Hoosick 
Falls #2, Nighttime of 1988 reveals an improved perspective and introduces 
a largely self-taught artist who makes selective choices while incorporating 
unusual colors and imaginative skies into a naturalistic setting. The purple 




The Railroad Crossing in Hoosick Falls #2, Nighttime, 1 988 



The Mind's Eye 27 



Tony Gengarelly 

hill and stylized trees were not in the original scene. Jessica substituted them 
for houses and other buildings. The octagonal structure; however, caught 
her eye and is rendered in exotic hues. The starlit sky features a crystal-like di- 
amond that represents the planet Venus. This 1988 rendition displays the marks 
of the budding artist, especially her imaginative inclusions, as well as a growing 
sense of perspective depth and dimensionality. 

In the summer of 1983, the Parks visited Jessica's Aunt Adrienne in 
Brooklyn, New York. Dinners were invariably late at Aunt Adrienne's house, 
so Clara made sure Jessica had a sketchbook and pencils to occupy her. When 
Jessica found a set of glass doors — four panels with filigree patterns — leading 
to an outside porch, she knew she had found her subject. Jessica set to work 
and accomplished her drawing just before dinner. 

Months later, in her Williamstown bedroom-studio, she produced the 
first of what was to become a major series of paintings. Jessica's love of rep- 
etition, an aspect of her autism, now became the exploration of a theme. Her 
inclination to compartmentalize forms and colors fit perfectly into the intricate 
pattern of the doors. Jessica's ability to mix and harmonize individual colors al- 
lowed her to combine many stained-glass effects with multiple variations. 

Her simple grid drawing, with its diagonal floorboards interrupted by 
strong vertical lines of the doors and horizontal features of the porch, pro- 
vided a frame for the view outside. Here Jessica employed her observation 
skills and potent memory to represent variations in weather, time of day and 
season, and to explore another theme she was soon to embrace more fully — 
the skies beyond. 

There is also a mysterious shadow on the far-right door that appears 
in the daytime versions. After much coaching, Jessica explained that the 
shadow was cast by a refrigerator on the porch. Jessica, especially fond of 
shadows, was drawn to details that fascinated her. So she included the re- 
frigerator's shadow in these paintings. Like the foot in the drawing of David 
Park, did Jessica record the shadow to suit her need as an artist, or because it 
was there? Here, autistic literalism, once again, appears to coincide with the 
inclination of the painter. 

The first 10 paintings of the doors were completed between 1983 and 
1993, but Jessica has returned to the series from time to time, using the same 
worn drawing as her template. Having already given a set of doors to her 
parents and to her older sisters (Katharine and Rachel), in 2006 she did a 
15th picture for her brother, Paul. 

Jessica's repetition of objects she especially enjoyed suggested the work 
of artists such as Claude Monet, who painted the same trees, rivers and grain 

28 The Mind's Eye 



Tony Gengarelly 



stacks under different conditions of light and weather. But Jessica was not inter- 
ested in the work of other artists. A visit to an art museum elicited very little re- 
sponse to the pictures and more interest in security-system devices on the walls. 
Jessica was focused on her inner world and the parts of the outer world that 
delighted or frightened her, or inspired her visionary sensibility. 




A special note of thanks to Dale Borman Fink, editor of A World Transformed, 
and to Leon Peters who prepared this special layout for The Mind's Eye. 

© Images are copyrighted by Jessica Park, 2013. 



The Mind's Eye 29 



A Storm of Exceptions: 
On Being a 21st Century 
Artist-Teacher 



BY GREGORY SCHECKLER 



"Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness" 

— Yousef Karsh 



That boulder has something to say 

In the middle of my college studies, I studied for a year in Innsbruck, 
Austria. Inspiration sparked: European art isn't always well-lit and hush- 
hushed in rarefied museums with "hands off" signs. It's on street corners, 
inside restaurants. You can't avoid it. This became a reality one day when in 
Italy, reading a guidebook while looking for unfinished Michelangelo sculp- 
tures, I suddenly realized that the boulder I was leaning on was an unfinished 
Michelangelo sculpture. ... 

Seeing great artworks in person sang the tone of quality, the timbre of 
seeking excellence, the storm of action. Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli, 
Masaccio — possibly the healthiest education is raw travel. Bring a sketch- 
book. Get off the standard curriculum: go sit on a Michelangelo. 

Indeed, if your idea of an art class is learning a discrete set of measurable 
techniques from an expert artist, you don't need college. You can get good, 
step-by-step lessons from free, online videos. College provides good directed 
lessons, too, and more; arts-interested peers, studio time, facilities you might 
not have access to, interactions with non-arts disciplines, chats with success- 
ful artists, and wild art parties. 

30 The Mind's Eye 



Gregory Scheckler 



All the waiters are actors 

Not too long ago a painting student asked me, "How did you become an 
artist?" 

So, I told her how I used to sell toys. Then I mentioned how I got fired 
for stocking beer wrongly at a convenience store. And how I'd also worked as 
a camp counselor (how to tie knots), a wiring installer for computer networks 
(how to avoid knots), an insurance claims processor (untying knots), and a 
state park summer laborer (cleaning latrines). 

One year, I cut onions at 5 a.m. for a pizza joint under the tutelage of a 
longtime employee. I was too busy crying. She used to say, "Hey cracker, boy 
you gotta toughen up!" Between tears and oniony snuffles, I'd joke, "What 
kind of cracker? Saltine, Triscuit, or Wheat Thin?" To which my boss would 
reply, "Aww honey, you just another crybaby cracker!" 

My student wasn't thrilled by these responses, and persisted, "But how 
did you become an artist?" 

One of my favorite art professors used to be a milkman. He was also, for 
a short time, a professional boxer — and also an exhibiting artist, a student, 
and eventually, an art professor. If we are to understand that art and life relate 
to one another, then all of those activities — having a life — are important parts 
of being an artist. 

Yet being an artist isn't just a job. For some it's not a profession. Being an 
artist is more of a visually-based livingry; sometimes a joy, and often a persis- 
tent intrigue. How then can we describe who is an artist? 

The definition of artist ought to be more like the law of gravity 

Art-making is the defining act of being an artist. Being an artist is a lot 
more than making art; and along with the making, one survives and gains 
ways to make more good art. Sidelines include the continuity of the art- 
making, the desire to improve — even the interpreting and presenting of the 
artworks — and if needed the dreaded non-art job to help pay the bills, as well 
as all the other trappings of modern life: acquiring food, housing, transpor- 
tation, good solid friends and family. But pulling at the center is always the 
art-making. 

Does one ever become an artist? I'm not sure. A beginning: childhood, 
drawing pictures. The scene: a basic American living room. The floor, covered 
with drawing paper, crayons, and me and probably my brother and sisters mak- 
ing up images, scribbles, wayward games. We drew pictures at so young an age 
that I cannot recall a time when we weren't scribbling; was there a moment when 



The Mind's Eye 3 1 



Gregory Scheckler 

we children were not artists but then suddenly became artists? Wasn't the center 
always pulling at us? And if making art is the base definition of being an artist 
then, by all means, at some point in our lives aren't we all artists? 

Just like how you are always in the middle of being an artist, making pic- 
tures seems more a natural series of progressions. I like the way photographer 
Edward Weston positioned image-making as natural: "Consulting the rules of 
composition before taking a photograph is like consulting the laws of gravity 
before going for a walk." 

I don't think he meant the artist shouldn't consult the laws of gravity; 
rather, that if you do, you should gain the deep feeling for composing just as 
you need to feel the gravity pulling through your center in order to walk. 

Man oh man, look at that fear go 

Gravity implies space. Space implies transit and time. Putting gravity space 
and time, and transit together means sometimes we fall flat on our faces. 

I am not a man of faith. I do not feel I have to "believe" that art is my life's 
work, nor do I make choices on the basis of blind adherence to unprovables. 
If you're like me, then as an artist you weren't wholly confident when you were 
beginning your artworks, but you dove into a life as an artist anyway — you 
knew it was possible because other artists had done so, and you could make 
some art, so, you dove in. And since the art-making urge is a natural force 
that centers like gravity, maybe it isn't entirely a choice, but from darkness an 
utterance. How can you not create? 

Some people manage to insert gravity into their life's work. My first pro- 
fessional art shows were in the late 1980s, while I was a college student. These 
were conscious choices. Much earlier I'd been in art shows, contests, and even 
sold cartoons of skiing penguins — $1 per cartoon — to my classmates back in 
second grade, without much forethought. But the idea of doing this con- 
sciously for me was in the late '80s, during that telltale time in one's education 
that hits many students when they suddenly realize that college soon will be 
over, and they now need a way to survive. 

I was full of fear and doubt about this. Today, in 2013, 1 still have doubts 
and moments when it seems reasonable to give up. This is not unusual: be- 
cause they make more artworks than anyone else, artists probably also en- 
counter more art-related fears and doubts than those who do not actively 
pursue art-making — and more rejection, more letdowns, and more of the ups 
and downs of exhibiting. 

I feel almost exactly the same way whenever I ski the steeps. Peering over 
the edge of the mountain sometimes I think, "Gee, this is stupid," and "Wow, 



32 The Mind's Eye 



Gregory Scheckler 



this must be too dangerous to do." Sometimes this is more of a whine: "But I 
don't wannnnaaa go there!" Sometimes I choose not to. Sometimes it really 
is too dangerous (at least I can take my skis off and walk down the mountain). 
Sometimes I ski anyway and find a great patch of powder that wasn't visible 
from the fear-inducing precipice. Sometimes none of my skills work together 
and I flollop around, and fall flat on my face. All good skiers fall. The more 
you practice the less it happens, but it still happens. If you'd like to rubber- 
neck at an accident you can see me fall online, in this video (at timestamp 0:52 
http://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=_PnqFXAmLfk). 

Let's just say there's more than one way to get down the mountain, and 
they aren't all in a direct line. So you bring your fear along with you and know 
that, once in a while, it'll demand some extra attention. One big secret of 
adulthood is this: usually nobody else notices any of your inner fears. 

Get your 10,000 early if you can 

One often hears that it takes 10 years or 10,000 hours of solid practice, play, 
and attention to become truly good at any skill: a sport, a musical instru- 
ment, being a doctor or accountant. So if you start that interest when you're 
young, by the time you're in your 20s, you might just be good at the skills. 
It's never too late to start, but the kids who started early gained some serious 
skills much earlier than adults who started late. 

When people become accomplished in the arts we say they're talented. 
As in, "Gee, I can only draw stick figures, but you draw so beautifully, you're 
so talented!" But behind the mystique of talent are thousands of hours of 
practice; not just any practice, but the art practice: the persistent making and 
exploration of images with a mind tuned toward the qualities of expression, 
provocation, honesty, beauty, illusion-representation-allusion — the stuff of vi- 
sual poetry. Michelangelo had an ornery way of saying this: 

If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, 
it would not seem so wonderful at all. 

Fortunately, Michelangelo's sour characterization isn't the entire truth of 
making art. Artist Sol LeWitt added: 

Your work isn't a high stakes, nail-biting professional challenge. It's 
a form of play. Lighten up and have fun with it. 

In both cases, whether it lights torturous flames or incendiary play, the 
image-making remains central. Personally, I think the more playful attitude is 
the better. 



The Mind's Eye 33 



Gregory Scheckler 



Your main squeeze 

The focus is on the making; the making is sourced by the artistic practice. 
Thus my college art syllabi could reduce to "Make art, talk about art, then 
make more art." 

Obviously, we cannot have practice without theory, action without inter- 
pretation, presenting without marketing, and making without a medium — 
and therein are many thorny art educational issues. (Which theories? Which 
interpretations and from whom? Which media and what techniques do they 
require? What kinds of marketing and to which parts of the world? What sub- 
ject matter, style, or outlook?) But these puzzles mustn't eclipse the centrality 
of the art-making. On this issue, Leonardo da Vinci's words strike a chord 
with me: "The supreme misfortune is when theory outstrips performance." 

The same is true of teaching. H.L. Mencken, ever the rapier wit, snarked 
that "A professor must have a theory as a dog must have fleas." 

Indeed, too much reading of art history or theory will not make an inar- 
ticulate painting more subtly crafted — for that, one must paint. Artists aren't 
just sports super fans who know every statistic of every game but who can't 
throw the ball. Instead, we know a lot of the sport, but we throw. We run. We 
paint. We draw. We photograph. We design. We animate. We provoke... and 
most often we learn by doing. 

As such, being an artist is far more than showing up for an art class and 
making a painting. It's much more than being an art major in college. It is in 
the making, in the athleticism. It is in the engagement with a long-term, ongoing 
practice. It is living the painting, squeezing the colors out of the tubes that are 
your deep experience and imagination of the world, poured out to build new im- 
agery. In a moment of desperation one of my teachers quipped, "Grab the goddess 
of creativity and hug her hard until she turns into more paint." 

No one true path, yes superhighway interchange 

Do you, the artist, have a purpose? Gawd, I hope not. Nothing could be 
narrower than being on just one singular mission, nothing more stultifying 
than to have no choice about what you will do; nothing more disappointing 
than when that narrow mission just doesn't work out. In contrast to a singular 
mission, I bet you have lots of roles throughout any given day, and that, as 
you age, your ideas and mind will change, and so will your main activities. If 
you're an artist, then you have some choices about when, how, and what kinds 
of art you make; your art interests might change from year to year, and you 
can choose not to make art, too. 



34 The Mind's Eye 



Gregory Scheckler 



The wonderful photographer Arno Rafael Minkkinen likens the many 
choices we artists face to taking busses from the Helsinki Bus Station — imag- 
ine each bus line is like a year in your life as an artist; you get on the bus, and 
realize another bus line is going the same direction. This means that some 
other artist is doing what you're doing. This could be a good coincidence, or 
an annoying connection. But your own deep artistic interest is in the differ- 
ences between bus lines, in the fact that Bus 71 may share some of its route 
with Bus 22, but eventually it goes to a different destination. It branches out. 
"It's the separation that makes all the difference..." and there at the separation 
is where artistic breakthroughs might happen, where you on your bus start to 
find an interesting new vision, a new direction. ("The Helsinki Bus Station 
Theory: Finding Your Own Vision in Photography" by Arno Rafael Mink- 
kinen, for petapixel.com at www.petapixel.com/2013/03/13/fhe-helsinki-bus- 
station-theory-finding-your-own-vision-in-photography/) Indeed, diversity 
and plurality and new directions are fundamentally important parts of the 
visual arts, not merely doing what everyone else has already done. 

When do you get on your own bus? These days I try to start every day by 
making a quick drawing or painting. I wake up, fix breakfast, feed the cats, 
and make a sketch. No rules, except for how it's good not to check email. 
Don't play video games. Don't turn on the news. Don't read a book. Make 
the art. For me, art-making right away sets the tone for the day: creativity is 
the beginning. 

Probably somewhere in that activity is some sort of grand philosophy 
"creativity is the beginning." But it seems to me to be more of a common- 
sense doing. And there's no pressure to perform, no high-stakes deadlines 
with these small, generative sketches. 

The intoxications of your teachers 

Good art schools provide many good teachers. But how do you teach 
the creativity that deals with the visual arts? Examples: my first college art 
course in drawing was provided by a senior professor in the art department. 
His syllabus went like this: get some paper and pencils, and let's make pictures 
together. 

No spreadsheets. No rubrics. He was sneaky. He introduced a great 
many techniques and traditions with a sly smile and a "Gee, what if you tried 
this?" attitude. There was never any indoctrination, there were no high-stakes 
exams, and yet there was more learning than in any course I'd ever taken. If 
he wanted to teach toned-paper heightened drawing, he didn't assign it; he 
just arrived with some toned paper and gave it to students and we drew, and 



The Mind's Eye 35 



Gregory Scheckler 

then he wondered what would happen if we added some light chalk, or white 
paint? How would that work? He asked questions, and snuck learning in on 
the side. 

He piled one giant still life in the center of the classroom: toys, dolls, an- 
tique casts, chairs, locks and chains, bicycles, mirrors, old paintings, flickering 
lanterns, and live nude models wearing thigh-high leather boots and Venetian 
masks, moving or standing or sitting wherever they wanted, sometimes im- 
mediately in front of you blocking your view of everything but their, umm, 
specialties. The affect intoxicated and mystified, like walking inside Plato's 
Cave of the mind. 

The silent treatment 

My first college art teacher had a colleague who also taught some of the 
painting courses, who never spoke. But he smiled or shrugged at your paint- 
ings; he painted with you. His approach was unstructured and rigorous all at 
once. And realistic, in that when your art is on display in the museum, people 
look, shrug, chat with each other maybe a little — but mostly if they like the art 
and find some interest in it, they look more and talk less. Nonverbal interac- 
tion is to visual art what grammar is to literature. 

With this kind of exploratory art-making it's not possible to know ahead 
of time what the outcomes are going to be: the painting isn't finished until af- 
terward. Artists tend to look forward, act in the present, create. And because 
you don't know what the outcomes will be, from this view it doesn't make 
sense to plan a course too much, other than to recognize we will make art 
together. Not all art professors are like these first two (I'm not) but I've always 
kept their open-mindedness and sneakiness in mind. 

A visual rigor 

A counter-example: a well-known professor's approach was structured. 
We drew with conte crayon and line only, creating intense anatomical studies 
of the human nude. We did this for two semesters. No erasing, no hesitancy; 
all form and roundness and rigorous proportion. For readers who haven't 
done much figure drawing, it is a difficult task; more so if you cannot erase, 
even more so when every line must flex into the depth of space. 

His final exam was to create two life-size drawings of a skeleton, in about 
two days' time. Every knurl, every joint, every form positioned and propor- 
tioned. Have you ever had an exam that lasted for two days? Have you ever 
had an exam where the goal was not to give the right multiple choice answer 
or essay response, but to draw a superb, precise picture? 



36 The Mind's Eye 



Gregory Scheckler 



Drawing on the cave walls 

Students spark each other's motivations because students have the best 
parties. Ours often went like this: cover all walls with blank paper. Give ev- 
eryone crayons. Get buzzed. Draw whatever the eff you want. 

We drew leeches sucking the life out of unsuspecting supermodels, we 
drew Batman, we drew airplanes and trees and butterflies and unicorns and 
a lipstick-smeared clown named Mr. Statue of Liberty. I'm not sure any of it 
made any sense. But somehow this inspired us... an almost endless supply of 
creative pursuits that may have had nothing or everything to do with enliven- 
ing the walls as if we were modern cavemen. 

Earning enough rejections to keep the recycling center in business 

My first big rejection went like this: sorry kid, you're a wonderful artist 
but your art's not good enough yet for graduate school. My professors were as 
gentle as possible about this. But it stung: you're not good enough. Sooner or 
later every artist faces rejection. Mine seemed to say that the goal of becom- 
ing an artist is one big stupid lie. And yes, it's hard psychological work to turn 
that first big rejection into an opportunity; to recycle it. 

So, I didn't do grad school right away, and instead transferred into a 
bigger art program for more experience. Thus from that first big rejection I 
gained two more years of undergraduate studio time, in a focused community 
of painting students. 

Do artists ever get used to rejections? After a while the rejections seem 
to become part of the iron wall that is some of the mind of the artist who 
insists on continuing to be an artist. They recycle more quickly. It's as if, like 
an arcing Richard Serra sculpture, the artist has an oversized rusty metal wall 
in mind, immense and immobile, insisting on making art, placed just so at 
slightly disorienting angles in order to direct you and the artist ever-onward 
to flashes of light and beauty. 

Need more opportunities to become an artist? Get more rejections! 

Vampires of the arts 

Eventually, I built a strong enough portfolio and went to New York City. 
This was sort of a disaster. I was a student there for a while, attending a nar- 
rowly conceived figurative art academy disguised as a graduate school, and 
also was dogged by frequent migraines and fatigue and their attendant hallu- 
cinations. New York is such a lively place that I am still not sure if there was a 
parade of a thousand bunnies down Broadway led by a troupe of blue- skinned 
contortionists. 



The Mind's Eye 37 



Gregory Scheckler 

During that time, Jean Michel Basquiat's work was presented as a retro- 
spective at the Whitney. What awesome art! It was full of vigor, color, wild 
brushstrokes and witticisms, meanderings, cartooning. I loved his show, and 
made the mistake of mentioning it during graduate school art critiques. 

If you're unfamiliar with the typical art school group critique session, 
well, consider yourself lucky. Critiques are by far the worst teaching tech- 
nique ever invented. They go like this: you put your carefully-wrought art- 
work on display, and then everyone opinionates about it until you barf and 
cry. Too often college art critiques are a form of institutionalized bulimia. 

The mention of enjoying Basquiat struck horror in more than a few of the 
professors, and some became angry, so much so that the critique never dis- 
cussed the artworks we had put on the wall (thank goodness!), and devolved 
into professors debating each other about their own parasites theories. (H.L. 
Mencken was right!) 

The problem was this: having struggled for years to bring more and bet- 
ter attention to their own figurative artworks, the professors for the most 
part hated the anti-establishment artworks of people like Basquiat, who had 
gained the money and prestige that the professors had never accomplished. Such 
is the life of many traditional realist painters: full of jealousy about all the other 
artists who gain fame and fortune while their own terribly difficult realisms do 
not. 

There's sort of a priestly attitude about making a lot of fine figurative art, 
an attitude that too often derides other kinds of art, and which requires its ad- 
herents to believe themselves on a holy mission to preserve or renew the best 
of old art traditions. It strokes the ego: we are so good at this that we're truly 
carrying on Raphael's legacy! (Or Caravaggio, or Bouguereau, or whomever 
the figurative painting hero of the day is.) As if they even come close to Ra- 
phael's vision.... 

In other words, there are vampires in the art world who will try to suck 
the life out of you, force-feed you their blood, and turn you into a follower and 
maker of their art style (not your own art and interests, of course, but theirs). 
Such exclusionary, insular tactics and teachings are best avoided. They have 
very little to do with what it's like to work as an artist outside of academe. 

Many survive quite well without fame, thank you 

A good chunk of being an artist is figuring out how to survive. And after 
graduate school, having decided not to pursue teaching right away, it was time 
for me to just be an artist. 

I wasn't ready for this. Following graduate school I was deeply dissatis- 



38 The Mind's Eye 



Gregory Scheckler 



fied with much of the art I'd made, and I didn't want a job. In fact, I was un- 
employed for about a year after graduate school, selling the occasional paint- 
ing and using up all of my savings until I was so broke I had to get some sort 
of job. The main job that made survival possible was managerial work at a 
gallery. 

Some of the gallery's artists pulled in tens of thousands of dollars in gross 
sales every year — all at a small regional gallery far off the New York / L.A. art 
radar. That fact was enlightening in and of itself: there are plenty of artists 
who survive — and survive well — but who are never in the famous big city art 
publications, reviews, galleries, or museums. 

Some of these artists could have survived off of sales from our gallery 
alone, but the more popular ones all were in many more than one gallery. 
They diversified, they sold well; they earned good livings. Many of them pro- 
duced gross sales of as much income as a decent doctor or lawyer. 

It's not about you, it's about them 

Working in a gallery taught me that selling art isn't about what you, oh 
holy artist, love about your artworks. Nor was it about what you, oh great 
salesman, think is worthwhile art that you'd love to have in your own personal 
collection of awesomeness. It is about what clients need and want — what they 
like, and what they find interesting, and whether or not your art matches into 
their interests. The job of selling art is to figure out what they need, and then 
find ways for what you have to offer to meet their needs. 

Also, markets differ. What sells in one market may have no effect in an- 
other. So as an artist, you have to match your art to those portions of the art 
world that can interact with and support it. Do you make large, Expression- 
istic concept paintings with a touch of Pop Surrealism? Great, go for funkier 
parts of the New York City gallery scene. Do you make gorgeous, realistic 
portrait paintings? Awesome! But get yourself a portrait agent to contact 
clients and gain commissions. Are your drawings charming cartoons of skip- 
ping bears? That's cool! Sell them to a children's book publisher. You have 
to be assertive about this: focus in on the markets that work for your artistry. 
The art world is so vast I have no doubt that, no matter what artwork you cre- 
ate, there can be a market for your work. But, not every market will support 
every artist. 

The spectre of job security always whispers sweet nothings 

Sometimes it seems like everybody wants tenure. It includes some un- 
usually reliable job security. Job security can mean a decent paycheck, which 



The Mind's Eye 39 



Gregory Scheckler 



certainly helps one to weather through the unpredictable nature of art world 
fashion trends. But it also can breed something terribly negative for the art- 
ist: you can get too comfortable, you can lose your edge, you can cease being 
desperate enough to do that extra bit of work your painting needs in order to 
be of the highest quality. And all that teaching and committee work is time 
you're not in the studio and not marketing your own work: which is great if 
you love teaching and are good at it, but a demon-in-waiting if you're only a 
teacher in order to be an artist, or if you just get tired of teaching. 

Meanwhile, the real function of tenure actually isn't job security. Tenure 
means that your boss can't force you to teach creationism during your con- 
temporary evolution course. Tenure is fundamentally about academic free- 
dom and the responsibility to provide truthful teaching despite the political 
whims of leaders who, more often than not, know nothing of your field of 
expertise. The protection of tenure is against ignorant bullies who get roles of 
power. But I have yet to meet an administrator who is a bully — so the protec- 
tion seems based largely in fear, rather than reality. 

So the challenge, then, of having earned and acquired tenure, is this: how 
to refuse complacency; how to maintain your creative edge and keep explor- 
ing, keep building interesting artworks. And it just so happens that this chal- 
lenge is not a result of tenure, and is the same challenge faced by many artists. 

Art, it ain't rocket science, and other stereotypes of art teaching 

So, you're going to make some art. If you're a student, your parents are 
probably worried you'll starve and never have a reliable job (I've never had 
one either). If you're an art student's peers, you may be thinking art is easy 
and that you should go into art because, well, you're not quite smart enough 
for real fields like science, math, or — well, you know, fields where they have all 
those exams and stuff. 

But the art will be an object, and therefore is physical, observable, expe- 
riential and highly objective. We can look at it, discuss it, and make more. 
The mere mention that art might contain and provoke truths and includes 
knowledge and aptitudes and verifiable experiences that we can share flies in 
the face of postmodern/poststructuralist beliefs about art's veracity, and also 
denies the stereotype that art is subjective, gooey meandering. Sure, art ain't 
rocket science. We don't do double-blind or even single-blind studies, not 
really. Yet for all that, there are many reliable aspects of the arts that can be 
taught, even creativity itself. 

I'm reminded of a BBC comedy — I think it was an episode of Mr. Bean — 
that involved an adult who'd returned to school for a few evening classes, who 

40 The Mind's Eye 



Gregory Scheckler 



found himself locked into an art classroom with a strange teacher: a fetching 
lass wearing a beret, speaking in a French accent, who pressed her hand on 
each student's forehead and yelped, "Inspire!" Then, students drew from a still 
life, as if magically inspired by the teacher's heartfelt emotional prompts. As 
they drew, she would stop them, change something in the drawing, press her 
hand on their foreheads again and yelp, "Inspire!" And then they switched 
subject matter and were presented with a nude, more "Inspire!" head-slap- 
ping, and much confusion all around as the students gasped agog with stupor 
and drooling, embarrassed. It was good comedy, reflecting the inarticulate, 
emotional artist-teacher who attempted to magically make and inspire new 
art out of thin air. 

And this is not how I teach. First of all, I don't have a beret (only be- 
cause I'm too cheap to buy one!). Secondly, there are skills and concepts that 
students can learn that are concrete, learnable, and inspiring, and that don't 
require magical thinking: tone, value, color, form, representation, metaphor, 
composition, art histories, creative process and problem -solving, art materials 
and the subtleties of their use, and much more. But at some point we do just 
sort of make stuff out of raw inspiration and magic. 

What an art professor really does 

As an art professor, I deal in imagination and art-making. Despite all of 
the fancy jargon you can read in college catalogs about what's in an art class, 
for me every class basically goes like this: make pictures; look at, read about, 
and talk about pictures made by each other and by other people; and make 
more pictures. 

Hopefully within that small cycle we attempt to make not just any image, 
but truly excellent pictures. As such, good craft matters. Technique matters. 
Knowledge matters. Ultimately, making pictures is about creating meanings 
and living worthwhile lives. Sometimes. 

But we artist-teachers, still we go all dada 

Every semester there's always at least one student who drives me nuts. 
About this student the best attitude might be the disarming zen koan. 

I should know, I was that student sometimes; at times bullheaded, sloppy, 
inattentive, so enamored of my own art hat I refused to learn the teacher's les- 
sons. Now that I teach, I see this kind of thing all the time. It goes like this: 

Student: Sorry I'm late. I'm worried being late will affect my grade, 
but you see I just can't eat dinner fast enough to get here on time. 
Teacher: You can be early, on time or late, but class starts at 5. If you 



The Mind's Eye 41 



Gregory Scheckler 

arrive late it's your responsibility to make up whatever you missed. 
Student: Oh cool, so I can be late. 
Teacher: (drops head into hands) 

Student: How come you gave me a bad midterm grade? 
Teacher: You didn't turn in over half of the assignments. I can't 
provide a grade for work you didn't do. 
Student: But I attended every class. 

Teacher: Yes, but did you turn in all of the assignments, half the 
assignments, or less than half? 

Student: Less than half, I think. But I deserve a passing grade. 
Teacher: Um, no. 

If it's any consolation to the students who might be reading this, there's 
also every semester at least one teacher who will drive the student nuts. I 
should know; sometimes I am that teacher. Oh, and there's also always at 
least one administrator who drives the teachers batty. What comes around 
goes around, or something, but apparently with increasingly greater pay rates 
along the way. 

Sometimes I think it's best just to respond with non sequitur. Cut to the 
nonsense since that's where we're going anyway. 

Student: Sorry I'm late. I'm worried being late will affect my grade, 
but you see I just can't eat dinner fast enough to get here on time. 
Teacher: Have you ever worn two sets of mismatched socks on the 
same day, two sets? 
Student: Wait, huh? What? 

Teacher: The route to New Jersey includes lemons and shoe horn. 

Student: Um, errrrm, doh. 

Teacher: A goat flies over the bacon! Snnnuurrrg! 

The line cook at the local diner is a professional 

Most of my students and I started out as lovers of art, very interested 
and engaged with images and metaphors and meanings. The definition of 
amateur is "one who loves," from the Latin amator, meaning lover. Doing art 
because you love it means you are an amateur. 

Doing art in order to earn money is being a professional. Many profes- 
sionals love their craft, too; but they do the craft to earn a living. Should it 
be the effect of the college degree to push students away from being amateurs 
and toward being professionals? Let's not be too quick to dismiss the impor- 



42 The Mind's Eye 



Gregory Scheckler 



tance of the amateurs attitudes, nor too quick to overestimate the quality of 
the professional. 

The line cook at the local diner is a professional cook. We don't know 
anything about the quality of the cooking merely on the knowledge that the 
cook is getting paid. On professionalism, think about this: is every lawyer a 
great lawyer? Is every doctor superb? Of course not. We all think we're better 
than average, but that isn't statistically possible. Someone's not average. And 
someone who gets paid to do a job maybe below average, and yet still be paid. 
Not every line cook is a great chef. 

And some amateurs may be far above average in terms of their skills, 
knowledge of their craft, the art world, and art history. Some amateurs might 
indeed be more informed than the professionals who earn a living but have 
lost the love of their work, and as a result of the depth of their love some ama- 
teurs might indeed make higher- quality artworks than the professionals. 

A quick glance at any of the better photo-sharing networks online today 
demonstrates this fact almost instantly: a great many amateur photographers 
make fantastic, precise, and intentional photographs as good as any professional. 
Conversely many professional photographers really are nothing more than 
lucky snapshot-artists who happened to be at the right place at the right time. 
Some pros are the paid, but uninteresting, line cooks at the local greasy spoon. 
Not always, of course; some professionals are outstanding artists. The same is true 
in painting, illustration, design, writing, film, and many other creative pursuits. 
Some bestsellers are hacks. Some bestsellers are artistic geniuses. 

Meanwhile, more than once in recent years we've seen the entire art mar- 
ket turned upside-down when an assertive amateur who's made some great 
work gains online attention, goes viral, and then gets in the hottest galleries 
and museums. It's a very exciting time to be an amateur or professional artist, 
and we all have access to vast markets and hugely valuable marketing engines 
across the Internet that didn't exist twenty years ago. 

Backwards thinking is no great economy 

One sign of community's ineptitude at handling great art is when the 
managerial, community, or other interests are not on the art, but on some 
form of economy-building or investment portfolio. Sometimes it's called "The 
Creative Economy." When it distracts away from the art, the creative econo- 
my is an empty shell of an idea that ends up peddling fiberglass sheep or cellos 
painted by school kids, as if that were the best of our community's creativity. 
One nightmare is that maybe such awful crap actually is the best that our 
communities can muster. 



The Mind's Eye 43 



Gregory Scheckler 



The storm has begun 

And along with that shift between amateur and professional, and art and 
economy, a storm has begun — actually a storm is well underway and we can 
only hope to survive it. 

I read somewhere that, in one day, over 380 million photos are uploaded 
to Facebook. Surely most of these were casual snapshots of no artistic merit, 
but fun to look at and share anyway. How many might qualify as fine art? 
Perhaps 1 percent or l/1000th of 1 percent? That's still a few hundred every 
day, thousands and thousands in a year, on only one of many social networks 
across a much larger World Wide Web. In one day, the images uploaded to 
the Web total more images than the entire known history of art. 

Every art history book ever made contains none of this new art 

And it's so much new art that probably never enough of it could ever 
be contained in one book to tell the story of 21st century art. We're record- 
ing and "artifying" everything, but we are doing it at such a great pace that 
we can't keep track of most of it. And we must update Karsh's comment that 
character, like a photo, develops in darkness. That comment makes sense in 
the context of old-school, wet-chemistry darkroom photography. But in the 
digital age, it is character borne of light turned to electrical impulses, Is and 
0s. Character, like a digital photo, develops in flashes of millions of lines of 
code. This storm is a raging hurricane with meteor strikes and massive tsuna- 
mis, and, within them all, cameras and code are everywhere. 




"Snowstorm: Shadows inside Lights series" 201 3, digital multiple exposure 
photograph. 



44 The Mind's Eye 



Gregory Scheckler 



Enter the storm of exceptions 

The storm of new art imagery engulfing the planet is so large that, to be 
an artist, there is no simplistic, straightforward canon of information to be 
taught, indoctrinated, tested or verified. 

Within a particular tradition or style of art there certainly are many ex- 
pectations for form, concept, and levels of quality. But across styles and meth- 
ods, much of the arts are idiosyncratic — not merely subjective (after all, visual 
arts objects are right in front of you: objective as real physical facts, which of 
course, objectively, you may find you like or dislike). Some traditions like the 
realist painting I specialize in are very well codified. Others are totally explor- 
atory and unpredictable. 

Some art isn't even made by humans — well, not exactly. Just yesterday 
in one of my classes we viewed a documentary photo project involving a tiny 
digital camera carried by a cat. The cat takes the camera wherever it goes, 
and the camera is programmed to take pictures at regular intervals. While a 
person programmed the camera and mounted it on the cat's collar, the cat did 
the moving, and the camera took the pictures on its own. So who's the author, 
who is the artist? And yet the resulting photos are fascinating, showing many 
views of the events in the cat's life. And often the images are beautiful, low- 
angle photos of the world. In such cases, authorship is questionable, which 
makes entire swaths of art educational dogma into irrelevant restrictions. 

Despite the persistence of national curricular standards for high school 
art training, there is always another art culture to learn from that wasn't in- 
cluded in the curricula, always another artist somewhere in the world who 
has made an interesting, provocative artwork that is completely different than 
whatever the predominant modes of the day are. 

I am not arguing here for relativism — far from it. I'm simply recognizing 
the observable art world fact that there are thousands of art styles, and thou- 
sands of art traditions, which have widely varying purposes and aesthetics: 
the art world is so diverse that outside of the demands of a specific art style, 
any dogmatic art curriculum is immediately suspect. Art manages to be a vast 
group of things that, despite their commonalities, are each a storm of excep- 
tions. 

How do you become an artist? One way is to enter the storm. The pre- 
eminent experimenter, British seascape and landscape painter Joseph Mallord 
William Turner is said to have strapped himself to the top of a mast of a clip- 
per ship during a storm, so that he could learn to feel what it's like to be inside 
the weather system. 



The Mind's Eye 45 



Gregory Scheckler 

He rode out a fierce thunderstorm, with waves breaching over the gun- 
wales and smashing down the sails. He survived. Then he painted pictures of 
it. If he had written stories inspired by the experience, he would have been a 
writer, not a painter. The choice is utterly simple: Painter, during this storm, 
which brush will you use for today's painting? 



46 The Mind's Eye 



Undergraduate Happiness: 
Some Preliminary Field 
Notes from the Classroom 

Presented at Eastern Sociological Society 2013 (Boston) 
BY JENNIFER ZOLTANSKI 



Abstract 

In this paper, I present field notes on the levels of happiness among past and 
current undergraduates, drawing on materials developed in my seminar 
on the sociology of happiness. While the primary purpose of my course 
is to examine interdisciplinary research on happiness, students complete a 
number of written assignments that allow them to connect their personal ex- 
perience to larger societal arrangements and to apply the lessons of academic 
research to their own private lives. In this paper, I discuss preliminary find- 
ings on their subjective wellbeing, and what these findings might reveal about 
general college student happiness today. Analysis of my data suggests that 
MCLA students are less happy than the average middle-aged American, but 
that this is due more to age than the particular college they attend. 

The Mind's Eye 47 



Jennifer Zoltanski 



Introduction 

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is a public, four-year 
institution located in North Adams, tucked away in the bucolic, but frig- 
id, Northern Berkshires. Situated roughly three hours west of Boston, four 
hours north of New York City, and three hours south of Montpelier (Ver- 
mont), MCLA is located at the western-most edge of Massachusetts; a spot 
I like to call the Bermuda Triangle. Although I have not assessed the affect 
that location may have on happiness, I think it fair to say that North Adam's 
size (roughly 13,000 residents) and remoteness pose particular challenges to 
adventure-seeking, young college students. Although North Adams is home 
to MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), it has few cof- 
fee houses (one, or sometimes two, depending on the season), even fewer music 
or dance clubs (zero at last count), a narrow range of restaurant choices (all of 
which close down by around 9 p.m.), and few opportunities for retail therapy. 
These constraints make for a fairly subdued campus, where extracurricular stu- 
dent clubs and activities seem to take precedence over raucous partying. 

This is my fourth year at MCLA as an assistant professor of sociology I 
teach a range of courses, including those on criminology, law and society, geno- 
cide, social movements, and social problems. Recently, I designed a course on 
the sociology of happiness that I have taught for two consecutive semesters, with 
a total enrollment of forty students. Because it is an upper-division seminar 
class, students have been junior or senior sociology majors. Mirroring the Col- 
lege's broader demographic characteristics, they have been largely white, female, 
and mostly first-generation students. (MCLA demographic data indicates that 
79 percent of students are white, 59 percent are female, and 77 percent are resi- 
dents of Massachusetts. A good number are first-generation students.) 

The happiness course takes an interdisciplinary approach to analyzing how 
wellbeing is defined, measured, and achieved. Students examine theoretical and 
empirical studies from a range of disciplines; including philosophy, sociology, 
anthropology, psychology, biology, economics, and public policy. Throughout 
the semester, they complete multiple writing assignments that allow them to 
connect their personal happiness to larger societal arrangements, and apply the 
lessons of academic research to their own private lives. So far, student work has 
served two purposes: first, as a basis for grading their performance, and second, 
as a valuable data set on college student happiness. 

Is it me or is it them? College student malaise 

Few college professors have deep insight into the subjective wellbeing 
of their students. Professors may care deeply about their students, but their 

48 The Mind's Eye 



Jennifer Zoltanski 



general happiness does not factor logically into courses on history, politi- 
cal science, chemistry, or other academic disciplines. At the same time, the 
work of teaching is intrinsically linked to our perceptions of student wellbe- 
ing. Admittedly, we strive to design and teach magical classes that tap stu- 
dent interest and generate enthusiasm for subject matter. Yet, during much 
of my teaching career, I have found myself in a grey zone. Maybe I am simply 
neurotic, but at some point in every semester, I find myself asking the in- 
evitable: "What is going on with my class? The students seem so miserable! 
They have become unreachable! Is it me or is it them?" 

Like most committed teachers, I have assumed the brunt of responsibil- 
ity and developed strategies to try to reach them and turn things around. 
Sometimes my efforts simply don't work, and I ride the semester out with 
my grumbling students in tow. I hear similar reports from my colleagues 
at MCLA, and also from professors at colleges and universities around the 
country. Professors complain about students; students complain about 
classes and the professors who teach them. The website "Rate My Professor, 
com" provides evidence of this fact. My recent interest in student discontent 
has grown out of this conundrum, but with the goal of identifying the un- 
derlying sources of student malaise. Are students unhappy because of col- 
lege or did they come to college as unhappy people? Put another way, is their 
discontent valid or is it displaced? 

Is it possible that professors work with an inherently unhappy popula- 
tion in the first place, so that even the most gifted and mystical teacher could 
not conciliate them? I designed the happiness course with this in mind. 
Armed with a thick course packet, happiness inventory and college student 
stress tests, a positive psychology challenge, and techniques for assessing 
economic happiness, I set out both to teach and to explore the terrain of col- 
lege student happiness. As noted previously, my data suggests that yes — college 
students appear to be less happy than the average middle-aged American. At 
least that is how the ones enrolled in my happiness course at MCLA appear. 

Measuring happiness 

What is happiness'? We use many different terms to talk about this emo- 
tional state, including "wellbeing," "life satisfaction," "subjective wellbeing," 
"flow," "contentment," "joy," "emotional wellbeing," "bliss," and others. In 
her book The Pursuit of Happiness: An Economy of Well-Being (2011), author 
Carol Graham succinctly points out that "happiness" is perhaps the most 
open-ended and least well-defined of the terms, although it is the one that 
gets the most public attention and interest. The term also appears in the United 



The Mind's Eye 49 



Jennifer Zoltanski 



States' Declaration of Independence" (p. 5). It is hard to imagine the Declara- 
tion without the word "happiness." Imagine the founders arguing that we all 
are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of "contentment," or "life satisfaction" 
or even "bliss"! Perhaps they chose the term "happiness" precisely because it is 
vague, open-ended, and applicable to "all men" (today, taken to be understood as 
"all people"). Happiness researchers have not had it as easy. They have had to get 
very precise about denning this slippery concept in order to measure and study it 
as accurately as possible. Put another way, in order to get closer to understand- 
ing the contours and sources of happiness, they have had to develop solid opera- 
tional definitions of it. And they have. Today, researchers tend to agree that the 
most valid way to measure "happiness" is to allow people to report their own 
wellbeing in different domains of their life; including health, work, housing, re- 
lationships, parenthood, education, and more. Positive psychologists in par- 
ticular have specialized in devising surveys (also known as happiness inven- 
tories) that allow respondents to assess their own state of wellbeing in these 
and other domains. Numerous happiness websites now exist that do exactly 
this, including the University of Pennsylvania's "Authentic Happiness" site, 
which boasts "more than two million users from around the world." (www. 
authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu) Users can log in and complete dozens of 
inventories that measure their own life satisfaction, social connectedness, 
and life purpose, to generate stand-alone happiness scores and/or evaluate 
their score in relation to their age, gender, and professional cohort. Even 
better, websites such as this have become clearinghouses of statistically valid 
databases for happiness researchers. A brilliant idea to say the least: allow 
people to evaluate their own happiness while simultaneously gathering and 
maintaining a dataset on happiness from a large, randomly sampled group 
of people, from all walks of life. As a result, positive psychologists are on the 
cutting edge of both understanding the sources of human happiness while 
also promoting its achievement. 

Authentic or inauthentic happiness: that is the question 

As noted previously, students in the happiness seminar are required to 
take a battery of happiness inventory tests and then discuss whether they be- 
lieve their scores accurately measure their "wellbeing." I ask them to visit the 
University of Pennsylvania "Authentic Happiness" website to take three spe- 
cific tests. These include the: 1) Authentic Happiness Test (measures subjec- 
tive happiness based on experiences over the past week); 2) Satisfaction with 
Life Scale (measures feelings of contentment with work, friendships, life pur- 
pose, and more); and 3) Approaches to Happiness Questionnaire (measures 

50 The Mind's Eye 



Jennifer Zoltanski 



pathways to "happiness," and the degree to which people "love their life"). 
They also complete one additional test of their choosing (which have ranged 
from "The Character Strength Test," "The Compassionate Love Scales," and 
"The Depression Test," to "The Perseverance" or "grit" test). Students pres- 
ent and discuss their test scores in class, and also write a reflective essay 
about the perceived validity of their scores. 

Curiously (or maybe not so), students tend to downgrade the accuracy 
of the tests and their own scores when it suits them. Consistently, they point 
out that the questions are either too open-ended or vague to "accurately" 
capture their state of being at the moment they took the test. A common 
complaint that students make goes something like this: "My test scores were 
way lower than I expected! How can anyone expect to measure anything 
as complicated as happiness? It is just too subjective — everyone has his or 
her own definition of it! It's up to the individual to decide. There is no way 
to measure it! These tests are stupid!" Better yet, students report that they 
figured out ways to "outsmart" the assessment tests— answering questions 
more often in the affirmative than in the neutral or negative, then mirac- 
ulously obtaining higher scores than they would anticipate. Humorously, 
they go on to fault the test designers for not being attuned to "the tendency" 
for respondents to exaggerate. Yet, in the end, they seem completely oblivi- 
ous to the fact that they have only outsmarted themselves! After all, the 
tests are designed to help respondents gauge their own state of wellbeing 
as accurately as they care to; the inventories are tools of self-awareness and 
potential self-improvement, not tests in the strict sense of the word. Perhaps 
this ambivalence to authentic happiness inventories can be taken as a gauge 
of general test fatigue (in response to nationwide efforts to "test and assess" 
high school readiness for graduation and entry into college), more than 
anything else. Maybe students finally have mastered the art of test-taking 
in spite of themselves. Whatever the case, one thing I believe this exercise 
teaches is that "happiness," along with most variables worth investigating, 
is indeed slippery and not something easily defined or measured. My hope 
is that, despite their cynicism, students come to appreciate that while these 
tests may be imperfect, they do get us closer to understanding a squishy hu- 
man emotion we sometimes call "happiness." 

MCLA student unhappiness 

Preliminary analyses of my students' happiness test scores show some 
interesting patterns. Recall that over two semesters, forty students have tak- 
en the "Authentic Happiness," the "Approaches to Life," and the "Satisfaction 



The Mind's Eye 51 



Jennifer Zoltanski 



with Life" inventories. Their aggregate average scores on these tests are sum- 
marized below: 

1. Authentic Happiness Inventory: Student average at 2.99 points (on 
a 1-5 scale) with a range of 2.46 to 3.54. Their average suggests that 
they are somewhat happy but slightly less so than their peer cohort. 

2. Approaches to Life Inventory: Student average 2.84 points (on a 
1-5 scale) with a range of 2.17 to 4.00. Their average indicates that 
they are somewhat content and en par with their peer cohort. 

3. Satisfaction with Life Scale: Student average 25 points (on a 5-35 
scale) with a range of 17-31. Their average indicates that they are 
just barely "satisfied," but come close to the average for people in 
economically developed nations. (Those who score 30-35 are high- 
ly satisfied, 25-29 are satisfied, 20-24 are slightly satisfied, and 15-19 
are below average.) 

At first glance, MCLA students (and their peer cohort) appear to be do- 
ing okay. They are not ecstatic, nor are they miserable; they are somewhere 
in the comfortable middle. Yet, the thing that strikes me about MCLA stu- 
dents (and their peer cohort scores), is that they are substantially lower than 
the averages of those of people in my age and professional cohort. My av- 
erages for all of these tests (like those of my age and professional cohort) 
range from mid-three up to five points. This difference corresponds with 
research that shows a strong positive correlation between age and happiness. 
Happiness levels drastically decline between young and middle adulthood, 
when they make a remarkable reversal. A graph of this across time would 
resemble a letter "U." New York Times' Nickolas Bakalar (2010) summarizes 
this trend nicely: 

On a global measure, people start out at age 18 feeling pretty 
happy about themselves, and then, apparently, life begins to throw 
them curve balls. They feel worse and worse until they hit age 50. At 
that point, there is a sharp reversal, and people keep getting happier 
as they age. By the time they are 85, they are even more satisfied with 
themselves than they were at 18 (Bakalar). 



52 The Mind's Eye 



Jennifer Zoltanski 



Below, is an example of this graph: 



The U-Bend 

Self-reported well-being, on a scale of 1-10 




6.2 

_i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i A? 

18- 26- 34- 42- 50- 58- 66- 74- 82- 
21 29 37 46 53 61 69 77 85 

Age, years 

Source: PNAS paper: "A snapshot of the age distribution of 
psychological well-being in the United States" by Arthur Stone 



The U-shaped age-happiness graph 

Age and happiness are strongly positively related. Along with age, we 
know (intuitively) that college professors enjoy much more prestige, autono- 
my, and job security than college students; this helps to explain differences in 
happiness levels, but may make comparisons seem unfair. However, I see it a 
bit like comparing oranges and tangerines. Students and faculty clearly have 
a symbiotic relationship — students learn from us, but we also learn from 
them. They bring their contentment and "love for life" into classrooms, and 
vice versa. Ideally, if student and professor scores matched along the happi- 
ness continuums, classrooms probably would be more consistently lively and 
upbeat for both parties. Unfortunately, my experience with students often 
feels more like this exchange between Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore: 

"Good morning, Eeyore," said Pooh. 

"Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore, gloomily. "If it is a good 
morning, which I doubt," he says. 



The Mind's Eye 53 



Jennifer Zoltanski 



"Why, what's the matter?" 

"Nothing, Pooh Bear. Nothing. We cant all, and some of us don't. 
That's all there is to it." 

"Can't all what?" said Pooh, rubbing his nose. 
"Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go 'round the mulberry bush." 
"Oh!" said Pooh. He thought for a long time, and then asked, "What 
mulberry bush is that?" 

"Bon-hommy," went on Eeyore, gloomily. "French word meaning 
bonhommy," he explained. "I'm not complaining, but There It Is." 
(Milne and Sheppard 1928) 

College student depression and suicide 

Preliminary analysis of MCLA happiness inventory data reveals that 
professors indeed work with a less-than-happy population. Rates of student- 
diagnosed depression and suicide are perhaps the best (though extreme) 
proxy measures of unhappiness. Recent reports on these variables are in fact 
quite alarming. For example, the American College Counseling Associa- 
tion (ACCA) estimates that the number of students who seek psychological 
help has doubled in the past 12 years; roughly 37 percent of college students 
sought help for psychological problems in 2012, verses 16 percent in 2000 
(DeMeglio 2012; Turner 2011). In a similar study, The American College 
Health Association finds that suicide ranks as the leading cause of death among 
college/university populations. An American Psychological Association study 
found a 10 percent increase in the number of students on psychiatric medica- 
tions over the past decade (Dagher 2011). These reports suggest that students 
struggle emotionally with college life, and that this struggle manifests along a 
spectrum of mild to severe depression, which may lead to suicide. It would be 
good and useful to know how the happiness of MCLA compares with that of 
students at other similarly ranked schools. Because my research is in its early 
stages, I have not yet discovered comparative datasets. 

Making lemonade out of lemons: the positive psychology challenge 

Thus, research shows that student discontent is related to both age and col- 
lege life. To reiterate, young people generally are less happy than middle-aged 
and the elderly. Most college students must deal with the strain of newfound 
independence, competitive academic environments, and homesickness. Those 
beginning to hone their professional careers also feel less secure, more anxious 
about confronting their futures, and are understandably less content than 

54 The Mind's Eye 



Jennifer Zoltanski 



those who have met these challenges and are figuratively "over the hill." This 
is not to say that all faculty are 50 and beginning the "happy" phase of their 
lives, or that all students are 20 and miserable, but rather that meaningful 
work, job security, and social prestige do bring greater contentment, regard- 
less of age. 

Bearing the fact of student malaise in mind, I introduce students to 
positive psychology and happiness. As a theoretical paradigm, positive psy- 
chology argues that the sources of happiness are individual and internal. 
Happiness is viewed as something we each construct in relation to our ex- 
periences in our external worlds (Deurzen 2009; Weil 2011). As practice, 
positive psychology argues that we control our happiness destiny by deciding 
how to interpret and manage our responses to our external social world. As a 
self-help model, positive psychology (for better or worse) instructs us that we 
are in the driver's seat; ultimately what matters to our happiness is whether 
we can make lemonade out of lemons. It all boils down to attitude. In an ef- 
fort to explore and apply this perspective, students are instructed on a range 
of positive psychology strategies and then are asked to take the 5/5 challenge: 
choose 5 strategies and practice them for 5 consecutive days to determine if 
they are objectively and subjectively helpful. How? They revisit and retake 
the Authentic Happiness Inventory Test to obtain a baseline or pretest score. 
Next, they choose five workable positive psychology strategies and practice 
them each for five days (keeping a journal log of their activities), and then re- 
take the Happiness Inventory Test a second time to compare results. As fol- 
low up, they write a formal essay that evaluates objective (pre -and post-test 
happiness inventory scores) and subjective (what they felt worked or did not 
work in terms of contentment) outcomes. Did they see an increase/ decrease 
in their happiness scores? If so, do they feel that they can attribute the changes 
to positive psychology? I have kept track of what seems to matter to student 
assessments of positive psychology strategies. What follows is a summary 
of attempted verses effective positive psychology strategies (though not in 
ranked order): 

Attempted positive psychology strategies 

Physical exercise (30 or more minutes per day) 
Gratitude list (three items per day) 
Cut TV viewing by one half per day 
Smile/say "hello" to a stranger 
Daily act of kindness 



The Mind's Eye 55 



Jennifer Zoltanski 



Have one good laugh per day 

Talk to a friend (one time per day) 

Spend time alone (half hour or more per day) 

Growing/caring for a plant 

Give yourself a treat 

Go somewhere you have never been 

Effective positive psychology strategies 

Cut TV viewing by one half per day 
Have one good laugh per day 
Gratitude list 
Spending time alone 
Growing/caring for plant 
Talk to a friend 
Physical exercise 

Go somewhere you have never been 

Getting Eeyore closer to bonhommy 

The positive psychology challenge produced surprising results even in 
the most skeptical students. After practicing strategies, nearly all students 
reported seeing increases in their Authentic Happiness scores, some more 
pronounced than others. Based on my analysis of their qualitative essays, 
students appeared to benefit most from strategies that allowed them to focus 
their energies on personal achievement and real (not virtual) relationships. 
For instance, many students chose to cut their TV viewing by one half. Some 
went further and cut Facebook and Twitter out of their lives for five days. 
Many confided that this was very difficult in the beginning (much like an ad- 
diction), but by day three they reported feeling liberated from the obsession 
with TV, Facebook and Twitter. In their essays, they reported that they had 
more time to focus on homework, spend time with friends, pets, and them- 
selves, which gave them deep feelings of satisfaction. Talking to a friend 
reportedly improved their subjective happiness by increasing their sense 
of social connectedness — and allegedly improved mood and sleep patterns 
among those students who practiced this strategy. Spending time alone and 



56 The Mind's Eye 



Jennifer Zoltanski 



physical exercise also were beneficial. Finally, many students reported that 
planting seeds or caring for a mature plant substantially boosted their per- 
ceived happiness. In my view, this practice gave them a sense of purpose 
and aesthetically livened up their sterile dorm rooms. These findings tell 
us something very important about the sociology of positive psychology: 
ultimately much of human happiness is in fact generated by activities that 
transcend the "individual," and instead figure very centrally on the collec- 
tive — our relationship to others and how we derive a sense of individual 
contentment from this. Talking to friends, caring for plants, gratitude lists, 
laughing in the company of others, and cutting media time all act as exit 
routes away from the "me" toward the "we." 

I have made it a point to explore student discontent in relation to the 
"American Dream" ideology. After all, we live in a society that emphasizes 
individual achievement and accumulation of material wealth. Could these 
pursuits produce unhappiness? Students learn that despite its high Gross 
Domestic Product (GDP) ranking (a measure of economic wellbeing), the 
United States ranks substantially lower in terms of happiness than nations 
that are organized around principles of collectivism or socialism. For in- 
stance, people in Costa Rica, Norway, and Denmark all rank as "happier" 
(first, second, and third, consistently) than their American counterparts 
(twelfth and sometimes lower), despite their comparative lower GDP (Bryner 
2010). Researchers have argued that economic standing is a poor proxy for 
either individual or national happiness, giving rise to the paradox of the hap- 
py peasant and the miserable millionaire (Graham 2009). What students 
glean from cross-cultural studies of happiness is that what seems to matter 
the most to human happiness is tangible and perceived social welfare in forms 
such as basic material wellbeing (i.e., safe/secure housing, food, potable wa- 
ter), good health and health care services, social bonds/connectedness, and 
meaningful work. At the macro level, political stability, democratic rule, 
and social and environmental justice also play major roles in human con- 
tentment. For example, Costa Rica (which ranked number-one in happiness 
levels in 2010) demilitarized in the 1970s, which allowed for major realloca- 
tion of tax dollars to fund education, health care, jobs creation, environmen- 
tal conservation, and sustainability that reduced gender pay/opportunity 
inequities, restored trust in elected officials and strengthened the national 
economy (Kristof 2010). 



The Mind's Eye 57 



Jennifer Zoltanski 



Conclusions 

So, what to make of all of this? For me, the project of both teaching happi- 
ness and learning about MCLA student wellbeing generated much food for 
thought, including: 

The students' desire to "cheat" on their happiness tests suggests 
something interesting about how deeply the ideas of the Declara- 
tion of Independence have penetrated into the sense of ourselves 
as Americans. Apparently, we've all internalized the belief that we 
not only have the right to pursue happiness, but an obligation to be 
happy. Unhappiness seems downright un-American. 

College professors work with an inherently unhappy population, 
mainly due to age, but also to student career/professional immaturity 
If we understand that much student discontent is beyond our peda- 
gogical control, some of our own job-related stress could be reduced. 

Research shows a strong correlation between stress, depression, 
and unhappiness. Stress can trigger depression, and depression 
produces stubborn discontent in ways that physical injury does not. 
Many people appear to adapt to physical injury in ways that people 
with depression cannot (Brickman & Coates 1978; Kolbert 2010). 
Knowing this, I had my students take the "College Student's Stress- 
ful Event" inventory, which measures stress along a mild to severe 
continuum. They averaged 272 points, indicating moderate stress. 
More importantly, no student fell into the mildly stressed category 
(<150 points), although several fell into the category of severely 
stressed (>300 points). This finding suggests that professors deal 
not only with an inherently unhappy population, but also a pretty 
anxious one, as well. 

Given that suicide is the leading cause of student deaths across the 
nation, it is imperative that colleges and universities, including 
MCLA, make mental health awareness and treatment a priority 
(Turner 2011; DeMeglio 2012), not only for the wellbeing of their 
students, but also for the wellbeing of the professors who teach them. 

Finally, more thorough comparative research is needed on happi- 



58 The Mind's Eye 



Jennifer Zoltanski 



ness, depression, and suicide rates across colleges and universities. 
Such research would allow MCLA to understand more fully how 
the school's institutional environment affects its students and would 
allow it to fine tune mental health services available to them. 



Bibliography 

A.A. Milne and E.H. Sheppard (Illustrator). 1928. The House at Pooh Corner. 

Methuen & Company Ltd. London. 
Bakalar, Nicholas. 2012. "Happiness May Come With Age, A Study Says." The 

New York Times. 

Bryner, Jeanna. 2010. "The U.S. May Be the Richest Nation, But It's Not 
the Happiest." Christian Science Monitor. www.csmonitor.com/Sci- 
ence/20 10/0701 /The Retrieved September 2012. 

Brickman, Philip and Dan Coates. 1978. "Lottery Winners and Accident Vic- 
tims: Is Happiness Relative?" Journal of Personality and Social Psychol- 
ogy. 36:8, pp. 917-927. 

Dagher, Nora. 2011. "Suicide: Number One Killer of College Students?" The 
Michigan Review, www.michiganreview.com/archives/3623. Retrieved 
September 2012. 

DeMeglio, Francesca. 2012. "Stress Takes Its Toll on College Students." Bloom- 
berg Business Week, www.businessweek.com/articles/20 12-05- 10/ stress- 
takes-its-toll-on-college-students. Retrieved March 24, 2013. 

Graham, Carol. 2009. Happiness around the World: The Paradox of Happy Peas- 
ants and Miserable Millionaires. Oxford University Press. New York. 

Kolbert, Elizabeth. 20 1 0. "Everybody Have Fun: What Can Policymakers Learn 
from Happiness Research?" The New Yorker, www.newyorker.com/arts/ 
critics/books/2010/03/22/10032. Retrieved September 2012. 

Kristof, Nickolas. 2012. "The Happiest People." The New York Times, www. 
nytimes.com/2010/01/07/opinion/07/kristof.html? Retrieved Sep- 



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tember 2012. 

Turner, James MD. 201 1. "Leading Causes of Mortality among American Col- 
lege Students at Four- Year Institutions." Elson Student Health Center 
Report. University of Virginia, news.virginia.edu/content/more-us- 
college-students-die-suicide-alcohol-related-causes-uva-researchers- 
find. Retrieved March 24, 2013. 

Van Deurzen, Emmy. 2009. Psychotherapy and the Quest for Happiness. Sage 
Publications. Thousand Oaks, California. 

Weil, Andrew 2011. Spontaneous Happiness: A New Path to Emotional Wellbe- 
ing. Little Brown & Company. New York. 



Thank you Michele Ethier, Shawn Rosenheim, and C.R. for your helpful 
editorial suggestions. 



60 The Mind's Eye 



Reflections on the Craft of 
Teaching 



BY GLENN A. CROSBY 



I am a professor of chemistry and materials science. At a recent dinner 
with friends, the conversation drifted to the topic of teaching, and I re- 
lated an experience Id had at my university. I had been asked to deliver a 
lecture on the subject of instruction styles and "tricks of the trade" to a general 
audience of teaching fellows, teaching assistants and assistant professors. 

What could I, a scientist, tell my audience about the craft of teaching? 
The university lecture program was created by people in the humanities and 
the social sciences; there was not a science or engineering scholar in atten- 
dance. The room was mostly filled with women; the single male was a history 
professor. Having spent my professional life lecturing on principles of chem- 
istry, physics, and mathematics, I gradually became aware that the lecture was 
going to be a challenge. 

I started by talking about myself, a safe topic. I have a sugar problem and 
I'm at my best in the early morning. I make up my lectures and exams in the 
morning, I write my research proposals and my manuscripts in the morning, 
and I always try to schedule my classes for the morning. If the latter cannot be 

The Mind's Eye 61 



Glenn A. Crosby 



arranged, then I must be careful to eat something shortly before the lecture or 
I simply don't perform well. I know it and the students know it. After class, as 
I collect my notes, one of them might say to me, "Don't you feel well today?" 
This is, of course, a gentle hint that I gave a lousy lecture. So, I always plan my 
days around my own natural rhythm. As I toil away in my office in the early 
mornings, I dread the sensation of the pressure changing in the building; it 
means the students and faculty are beginning to arrive and my creative time 
has ended. My research students will enter the office complex, the lab pumps 
will start to run, the phone will begin to ring, and people will pound on my 
door. With a short glance at my notes, I'm off to the lecture hall. If I've eaten 
a good, large breakfast, and if I've prepared in advance, then all will go well 
and I will make it through the morning in top form. 

I have a second personal matter to consider — preparing in advance. For 
some inexplicable reason, I cannot prepare a lecture right before delivering it. 
If for unavoidable circumstances this happens, the lecture doesn't go well — 
nothing flows, my thoughts collide, and I mix the end with the beginning. 
Even an outline won't really help me; I still become flustered. I noticed the 
problem years ago, and solved it by the simple act of preparing my lectures 
days ahead of time. Immediately before the lecture, I need only look at my 
notes, perhaps write down a detail or two, and ruminate for a few moments 
on the topics to be included. Ten minutes often will suffice and the lecture 
will go smoothly. Evidently, in the period between crafting my notes and giv- 
ing the lecture, my mind processes the material and arranges it in a rational 
sequence. Even talking about topics that are very familiar to me will not go 
well unless I've prepared the lecture at least a few days in advance. I know my 
own mind and I cannot interfere with the way it works. 

What other elements should be considered when planning a lecture? 
Humor can add leavening and some professors even tell jokes, but I never 
do. If a humorous event occurs naturally, then I take advantage of the occa- 
sion to lighten the lesson, but just telling a joke as an aside is not my style. I 
routinely performed demonstrations in my classes and the students really en- 
joyed them, but there was always a central principle being illustrated. There 
is a fine line that separates conveying serious content and merely entertain- 
ing students. When I came close to that line, I recognized the danger and 
retreated. Periodically I did put on demonstrations only for show: The Color 
of Chemistry. It was entertainment, and it was advertised as entertainment. 

As we all know, in any group of students there are all types of learn- 
ers. For some, the concept of a partial molar volume, and the fact that vol- 
umes not always prove additive, is neatly buried in a mathematical symbol. 

62 The Mind's Eye 



Glenn A. Crosby 



They get it. They can work with the idea and are comfortable with it. Oth- 
ers must be shown. When I mix 50 milliliters of alcohol with 50 milliliters 
of water and the final volume is only 95 milliliters, they get it — it is experi- 
mental fact. Still, others cannot comprehend it on a molecular level — nei- 
ther the mathematics nor the visible experiment sinks in. Molecules are 
too abstract for them. They need something more concrete. I construct a 
thought experiment in which a gallon of golf balls is poured into a two-gal- 
lon container. A gallon of BB shot is added and the mixture is thoroughly 
shaken. Finally, they get it. They can visualize that the volume of the mix- 
ture is NOT two gallons because the BBs occupy the interstices between the 
golf balls. Once a student can imagine it, the realization that alcohol mol- 
ecules are not the same size as water molecules becomes clear, and it is not 
such a great leap to the mathematical symbol and its meaning. A skilled 
lecturer ripples up and down the ladder from the concrete to the abstract 
and back again, until most of the class understands the idea and is ready to 
grasp why the partial molar quantity is denned in the first place, its impor- 
tance in some areas of science, and how to use the concept with confidence. 

There is another learning factor to consider, especially for those of us 
in technical fields. Many students are speaking English as a second lan- 
guage. Although I made no effort to modify my lecturing style to accom- 
modate them, for exams I tried to be fair. I arranged the schedule so students 
could come early (7:30 a.m. for an 8:10 to 9 a.m. exam) so that anyone who 
wanted more time could have it. Most of the American students came at 
8 o'clock, but the foreign students came early. They needed the extra half 
hour. I understand their need because I am considered to be fluent in Ger- 
man, but I still read that language and comprehend it only about two-thirds 
the speed of written English. Scheduling the exams to allow slow readers 
(and anyone else) to be comfortable is, in my opinion, a matter of fairness. 

Another systemic problem that has grown over the years — until some 
classes are literally suffocated by it — is the gradual increase in size and com- 
plexity of textbooks. Especially in the sciences the texts' ancillary materials 
(slides, overheads, outlines, exam questions, problem sets, etc.) can over- 
whelm the student and, sadly, the instructor. If the teacher uses all the ad- 
ditional information, control of the course switches from the lecturer to the 
textbook authors. In addition, even though the authors placed in the text 
what they thought were the principal ideas of the field, often they didn't pre- 
pare the augmenting supplements. Yet, the student is forced to focus on what 
is in those pages. Moreover, a text, even a celebrated, successful one, may 
not emphasize what the instructor wants the students to carry away from the 



The Mind's Eye 63 



Glenn A. Crosby 



course. I found that what I wanted my students to learn often was not re- 
flected in the problem sets provided in the text; I usually found the problems 
to be uninteresting or trivial or irrelevant to my intentions for the course. 

In the sciences, working problems is an effective way to internalize a sub- 
ject or a concept; thus, problem assignments become significant. I learned 
early in my career to ignore all ancillary textbook materials; I asked students 
to study designated sections, and I wrote my own problem sets. Creating 
my problem sets produced an epiphany — I found that crafting problems re- 
quired me to cogitate on ideas in a manner different from the way I thought 
about lecturing on the very same ideas. A problem could be designed to 
have many parts, each part extending the main idea in new directions, which 
gave me new ways to explain concepts — ways I had never thought of before. 
My specially crafted problems focused the students on what I wanted them 
to learn, and fewer problem were necessary to make my point. As I cre- 
ated the problems sets, I also designed my exams, and thus the test questions 
were relevant to my learning goals for the student. I was in charge of the 
course and what I wanted my students to learn, the tests were relevant to 
the concepts elaborated in the lectures, and student learning did improve! 

I have the reputation of being a good lecturer; in fact, students have tossed 
a few accolades my way. During an interview I once was asked what my rules 
for teaching a good course were. I have three: (1) Know what you're talking 
about. This may sound trivial, but it's not. Some concepts in the sciences are 
difficult, really deep, and even a seasoned scientist must spend hours and 
hours chewing on such fundamental topics to be able to lead the class to the 
depth of understanding required if students are to become comfortable with 
the ideas. (2) The students must perceive that you are working as hard, or 
harder than they are. If you're not putting in the effort, they'll soon discover 
your fakery and will lose respect for you. (3) You can be as demanding as 
you wish, but you must be fair. This includes relating the tests to the subject 
being taught, assigning problems that are relevant and meaningful, and craft- 
ing tests so that hardworking students can earn respectable scores on exams. 

Finally, I come to the most important responsibility of the instructor — to 
highlight the main points of a lecture and drive home the BIG ideas. Some 
ideas simply are not as important as others — the relative atomic mass of natu- 
rally occurring iron is a construct of nature, useful in chemical and engi- 
neering computations; the First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy is 
neither created nor destroyed, but merely changes its form (in normal, low- 
energy terrestrial reactions). The former holds only minor importance; the 
latter is a BIG idea with enormous implications. Some lecturers never dwell 

64 The Mind's Eye 



Glenn A. Crosby 



on the distinction. At the end of some of my lectures I would say, "If you 
didn't understand this and this, you can still pass the course, but if you don't 
get THIS, then you're in trouble!" Some concepts are far more important 
than others, and it is necessary that the lecturer understand the distinction 
and make clear the concepts' relative importance. 



The Mind's Eye 65 



How Do You Learn Science? 



BY NICK STROUD 



Walking along a local hiking trail, I wonder aloud to my son why the 
stream we are crossing is shaped like a big "C," instead of a straight 
line. We scan along the stream banks for clues and poke around in the 
water. As we continue on the trail, we spot a small card attached to a 
tree. The card has some brief instructions about how to use a mobile 
phone to learn about some science at this location. Intrigued, I pull 
out my phone, take a picture of the QR code on the card and I am 
immediately brought to a site explaining the science behind how an 
oxbow (our "C") is created in a stream. It's as if a shroud has been 
peeled away, revealing a new, and even more intriguing, view of the 
dynamic stream in front of us. 



In the coming decades, the ways in which individuals interact with the 
world undoubtedly will continue to be changed by technology. This pres- 
ents an incredible opportunity for learning outside of school, and espe- 
cially for learning science. Two emerging trends are converging to allow new 
opportunities in science learning; ones in which instances like the vignette 
above will be woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. 

The first is the widespread adoption of mobile devices and their use as 
not only a communication device, but also as a tool to create and share con- 



The Mind's Eye 67 



Nick Stroud 



tent. The type of activity supported by mobile devices continues to expand, 
encouraging an explosion in the number and quality of software applications 
("apps") developed for these devices. The simplest mobile phone available 
in the current market not only has more processing power than the Apollo 
11 computers, but also includes a camera and a Global Positioning System 
(GPS). Putting what essentially are miniaturized computers into our hands is 
not merely a technological marvel, but may also alter the way children inter- 
act with each other and with their surroundings. 

As they open up new ways of interacting, mobile devices present unique 
opportunities for the development of learning experiences. One of these 
strengths is the ability of mobile devices to turn individuals into content cre- 
ators. A simple example is the kind of social media content individuals can 
create through Facebook or Twitter. Creating content can empower individu- 
als to explore their interests, and can shift their perspective from learner to 
teacher. In allowing such shifts to become more commonplace, mobile de- 
vices rapidly can change the dynamic between student and teacher. Allow- 
ing students to act as teachers can, and does, happen in classrooms, but such 
shifts are more frequent outside of school. In these instances, students are free 
to create, teach, and learn in a fluid fashion. In essence then, mobile devices, 
harnessed properly, can become effective tools for teaching and learning. Us- 
ing the vignette as an example, a previous visitor to the oxbow in the stream 
may have used their mobile device to share their ideas on how that formation 
was created, harnessing the power of mobile devices as teaching tools. 

The second trend is the increasing acknowledgement that a great deal 
of learning, especially in the case of science, occurs outside the confines of 
school classrooms. From museums and aquaria to "citizen science" projects 
and media reports, these learning experiences are gaining prominence as im- 
portant examples of science learning. The kinds of learning experiences in- 
dividuals encounter outside of school, whether they are of school age or not, 
can be especially salient for science learning because of their ability to spark 
interest, be tied to real-world scenarios, and focus on the process of science 
rather than a correct answer. In these settings, individuals may engage in 
practices that can be considered scientific (such as asking questions, making 
observations, and looking at evidence), as well as bring a wealth of knowledge 
acquired through daily living and functioning within a community. If we first 
can recognize these practices and "funds of knowledge" (as the researchers 
Luis Moll and colleagues in the early 1990s termed the stores of knowledge 
individuals and communities acquire over time in order to function), then 
we can leverage them to deepen and expand the definition of science learn- 

68 The Mind's Eye 



Nick Stroud 



ing into a more rich and varied tapestry of knowledge and practices than can 
possibly be woven within schools. This is not to say that learning science in 
school is not worthwhile or without its place, but it is important to distinguish 
and recognize the unique and important facets of learning science outside of 
school. 

Pulling together the two threads of mobile devices as teaching and learn- 
ing devices, and the unique features of science learning outside of school, I 
envision a changing dynamic in the way individuals learn science. Allowing 
individuals to explore scientific questions of interest to them, and making 
that process interactive, can be accomplished through an on-demand, mobile 
science learning tool. I hope to see this type of tool become a regular part of 
how individuals explore science, and I believe it will lead people to question 
the science behind their everyday experiences. For me, this goal is worth 
working toward and working on, and I believe we all will be better off if we 
can come close to attaining it. 



Further reading: 

• The New Media Consortium's (NMC) Horizon Report annually details re- 
search-based educational technologies at various adoption "horizons," in- 
cluding "one year or less," "two to three years," and "four to five years." The 
latest one for K-12 education can be found here: www.nmc.org/horizon- 
project/horizon-reports/horizon-report-k-12-edition. 

• "Funds of Knowledge" research on the kinds of knowledge individuals bring 
to bear on new learning situations: Moll, L. C, Amanti, C, Neff, D., & Gon- 
zalez, N. (1992). Funds of Knowledge for Teaching: Using a Qualitative 
Approach to Connect Homes and Classrooms. Theory into Practice, 31(2), 
132-141. 

• Commentary on the idea that "School is not where most Americans learn 
most of their science," Falk, J. H., & Dierking, L. D. (2010). The 95 Percent 
Solution. American Scientist, 98, 486-493. 

• A recent op-ed piece on the role of museums in developing critical thinking: 

Bartels, D. M. (2013). Critical Thinking Is Best Taught Outside the Class- 
room. Scientific American. 



The Mind's Eye 69 



Teaching and Learning 
With Henry Giroux 

BY SETH KERSHNER 



As a counterpoint to the current hand-wringing over public educa- 
tion in the United States, it may be helpful to remember that we 
will spend a comparatively small amount of time during our lives as 
students in the classroom. That the focus thus far has been on teachers and 
tests should not surprise us, however. These are tangible and measurable 
aspects of education. It happens to be much harder to reform — or even to 
keep track of— the educational force of culture. What does that force look 
like? As C. Wright Mills put it in his famous BBC address, "The Cultural 
Apparatus," we base our understanding of the world around us not only on 
schools, but also on "the observation posts, the interpretation centers" and 
"presentation depots" of the mass media and entertainment industry (Mills 
406). "Taken as a whole," Mills continued, "the cultural apparatus is the lens 
of mankind through which men see; the medium by which they interpret 
and report what they see" (Mills 406). The media's overpowering influence 
in our lives and the fact that we never actually confront pristine reality (only 
a mediated version thereof), raises the question: Could the cultural appara- 
tus be the most influential teacher we ever have? 

70 The Mind's Eye 



Seth Kershner 



Mills, of course, was speaking more than a half-century ago. In search 
of a more contemporary take on the matter, I spoke with Henry Giroux, a 
former professor at Penn State and currently the Global Television Network 
Chair of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Ontario, 
Canada. Professor Giroux is author or co-author of more than 50 books, 
including The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Aca- 
demic Complex (Paradigm, 2007) and his newest work, Youth in Revolt: Re- 
claiming a Democratic Future (Paradigm, 2013). Professor Giroux calls the 
educational influence of mass culture "public pedagogy" and has, over the 
years, used the examples of Disney films and popular television shows like 
Mad Men to expose and critique the embedded pedagogy of popular culture. 
As he remarked in our interview, "The most powerful educational force in 
the U.S. is not the schools, it's outside the schools." 

I talked with him last February about public pedagogy, the promotion of 
pro-military values in schools, and organized efforts by students themselves 
to resist these trends. 

SK: I just got back from San Diego, where my colleague and I spoke with young 
people who had been student activists in their high school. These kids and 
their peers had become radicalized after their principal cut back on their col- 
lege-prep curriculum to make way for a JROTC unit.' These students — many 
of whom were Latino and from economically disadvantaged backgrounds — 
could no longer take AP Spanish, but they could learn marksmanship on the 
campus's JROTC firing range. 

HG: This is an important issue and symptomatic of a much larger problem. 
Public schools are not simply being corporatized, they are also subjected in- 
creasingly to a militarizing logic that disciplines the bodies of young people, 
especially low income and poor minorities, and shapes their desires and 
identities in the service of military values and social relations. For a lot of 
these young people, there are only a few choices here: you can be unemployed 
and hopefully be able to participate in some way in the social safety net, you 
can take a low-income job, you can end up in prison or you can go into the 

The Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program (JROTC) is now present in more than 
3,000 high schools across the country, enrolling more than 400,000 14- to 18-year-old "cadets." 
Students enrolled in JROTC — which the Pentagon describes as a citizenship training program, 
not a recruiting operation — receive classroom instruction in citizenship, history and "military 
science" from retired military personnel; practice military drill formation; and attend school in 
uniform once a week. Some JROTC units even have firing ranges on campus so that cadets can 
train to be . . . well . . . good citizens. For more on student-led resistance to JROTC, see Harding 
& Kershner and Lagotte. 



The Mind's Eye 71 



Seth Kershner 



military. And it seems to me that increasingly the military is becoming the 
best option of all of those. So you have a whole generation which — by vir- 
tue of this massive inequality — really has very limited choices. But also you 
have these institutions that are basically there to socialize kids, telling them 
the only way to succeed is to join the military-industrial complex, and that 
there really are no other options, at least for them. Moreover, as these young 
people are subject to the warring logics of a militarized society, a society in 
which life itself is increasingly absorbed into a war machine, it becomes dif- 
ficult for them to imagine a social order that can be otherwise, one that is 
organized around democratic values. 

SK: Like this program I've been following: it's called STARBASE. This is a 
Defense Department program that every year reaches around 70,000 students 
in over 1,000 schools - the majority of them in fifth grade. Pitched as a way 
to supplement school curriculum in the STEM (science, technology, engineer- 
ing, mathematics) fields, there's an insidious element of military marketing 
at work: soldiers "mentor" students enrolled in this program and most of the 
instruction takes place at military installations. As part of the program, stu- 
dents are given plenty of time to horse around on "cool" military hardware. 

HG: It's mind-blowing. I think what we often forget — and this is something 
that you and others like yourself are trying to make clear — is that when you 
talk about the militarization of American society you're not just talking about 
increasing the military budget or arming the police with military- style weapons 
and so forth. You're also talking about the militarization of a culture in which 
military values and relationships permeate every aspect of what C. Wright Mills 
called the cultural apparatus — schools, fashion, movies and screen culture. 
Violence becomes the only shared relationship that we have to each other, the 
only mediating form through which people can now solve problems. More 
insidiously, it defines our sense of identity and personal liberation through 
violence both as a mediating force and as a source of pleasure and entertain- 
ment. It's one of the reasons why the majority of people in the U.S. support 
state-sanctioned torture. How do you explain that? It's really a culture that's 
become so saturated in this military/violent mindset that it has lost any sense 
of critical thought and ethical responsibility and has little understanding of 
what a democratic society might look like. 

SK: Militarism in the schools is of course just one aspect of a larger culture of 
militarism in the U.S. And this gets at your notion of public pedagogy, doesn't it? 



72 The Mind's Eye 



Seth Kershner 



HG: I may be terribly wrong, but I think the central issue here is that, first of 
all, you have to realize that the educational force of the culture represents the 
most important pedagogical force at work in the United States, Canada, and 
in many other countries. This is not to suggest that schools are not involved 
in the process of teaching and learning. But I think we commit a grave mis- 
take when we assume that schools are the only place where learning goes 
on. I would be willing to argue — and I have argued — that the most powerful 
educational force in the U.S. is not the schools, it's outside the schools. Young 
people are awash in a public pedagogy that is distributed across numerous sites 
that extend from movies and the Internet, readily amplified through a range 
of digital apparatuses that include cell phones, computers, and other electronic 
registers of the new and expanded cultural flows. When schools fail to make 
a connection between knowledge and everyday life — between knowledge and 
these ever- expanding cultural apparatuses - they fail to understand, interrogate, 
and question the educational forces that are having an enormous influence on 
children. The ongoing commercial carpet-bombing of kids through a range of 
ever-expanding technologies — that make possible new social networks and in- 
formation flows — is aggressively commodifying every aspect of their lives. Not 
to address this and make it pedagogically problematic, not to interrogate the 
massive violence kids are exposed to through screen culture and the new digital 
technologies, is to do an enormous disservice to the way in which young people 
are being educated by the wider culture. 

SK: But young people are resisting, in various ways. You obviously were in- 
spired to write your latest book because you believe youth have a role to play in 
fighting and changing the system. 

HG: As someone from the generation of the '60s, I'm enormously inspired 
by what they're doing. Right now they may be the only chance that we 
have. Consider their courage: the bravery of these young kids in Occupy 
Wall Street, fighting against state-sanctioned violence in the form of police 
pepper spray, police dragging them off to jail and arresting them en masse. 
They've become a model for what it is to stand up to this one percent that has 
turned the U.S. into an authoritarian society. I think that what these kids 
are doing is not only producing a new language to talk about inequality and 
power relations in the U.S., but they're actually trying to create public spaces 
where new forms of social relationships, inspired by democratic and coop- 
erative values, are really becoming meaningful. These young people are re- 
thinking the very nature of politics, and asking serious questions about what 



The Mind's Eye 73 



Seth Kershner 

democracy is, and why it no longer exists in many capitalist countries across 
the globe. They have been written out of the discourses of justice, equality, 
and democracy, and are not only resisting how neoliberalism has made them 
expendable, but they are also arguing for a collective future very different 
from the one that is on display in the current political and economic systems 
in which they feel trapped. That's important. 

But they face enormous challenges. They don't have access to the domi- 
nant media. They're trying to use new media to create new modes of com- 
munication. They're trying to understand what democratic processes might 
mean in terms of sustaining collective struggles, and all of this takes time. 
I think that rather than saying that Occupy Wall Street has died, we can say 
that they're in the process of understanding what the long march through 
alternative institutions might mean. 

As conditions get worse in the U.S., this movement will grow and take 
on an international significance. Hopefully they'll join with young people 
in other countries to figure out how to address the biggest problem that the 
global community faces — politics is local and power is global. Nation-states 
can't control the flow of capital; it's outside the boundaries of nation-states. 
So, we need a politics that's global to be able to deal with that. 

SK: In reflecting on my own research, I've seen examples of school adminis- 
trators treating student activists in two distinctly different ways. In my area, 
Western Massachusetts, for example, there are high school students who are 
very heavily involved in organizing around issues of ecology and sustainability. 
They lobby for locally grown foods to be served in the cafeteria, install small garden 
plots for community members, school officials give them land on school property 
to grow vegetables, and so on. But then you have the students in San Diego that 
I mentioned before. Because they were fighting against the military presence in 
their schools they were seen as agitators. School administrators and police would 
conduct video surveillance of the students' marches, and one of their leaders was 
prevented from taking part in the graduation ceremony with the rest of his class. 
What might explain the differential response here? 

HG: As long as these modes of resistance don't challenge relations of power, 
that's fine with school officials and others in a position of authority. As long 
as they're focused on students finding a happy spot in themselves, positive 
thinking, that's fine. But as soon as they start talking about power, milita- 
rization, inequality, racism — all those things that point to deep structural 
problems — student resistance and dissent is viewed as exceeding its possi- 



74 The Mind's Eye 



Seth Kershner 



bilities and limits. Just look at what happened in places like Arizona, where 
these racist educators and politicians succeeded in banning ethnic studies. 
When young people protested against their history, culture, and forms of 
witnessing being excluded from the curriculum, they were labeled as crimi- 
nals, communists, and agitators. 

What is most important in terms of these youth movements is that you 
have a lot of young people making connections, saying, "Look, you can't talk 
about the rise in tuition unless you talk about the attack on the social state 
and social protections. You can't talk about what's happening in education 
unless you talk about the rise of the punishing state." In a place like Califor- 
nia where more is spent on prisons than on education, clearly those connec- 
tions are what give force to a generation of students who are simply refusing 
to isolate these issues. It no longer makes sense to say that these are spoiled 
kids who don't want to spend much for their education. These young people are 
developing a conversation about society at large, calling into question its most 
fundamentally oppressive economic, political, and educational structures. 

Also, young people are recognizing that they're not going to find their voice 
in the Democratic Party or in the existing labor unions. What they really need 
to fight for are new mass and collective organizations that can call the entirety of 
society into question and mobilize so as to develop the policies and institutions 
that make a new and radically democratic society possible. 

SK: Here's a paradox for you: How do you teach social change or resistance 
to authority within public schools — institutions that many have criticized for 
being authoritarian and resistant to change? 

HG: You can't do it if you believe these institutions are so authoritarian that 
there's simply no room for resistance. That's a mistake. Power is never so 
overwhelming that there's no room for resistance. Power and the forms it 
takes are always contradictory in different ways, and there is always some 
room for resistance. What needs to be understood is the intensity of domi- 
nant power in different contexts and how it can be named, understood, and 
fought. The issue here is to seize upon the contradictions at work in these 
institutions and to develop them in ways that make a difference. During 
the '60s, the term for this was the long march through institutions, and the 
reference had little to do with reform but with massive restructuring of the 
instruments of democracy. 

And we also need to impose a certain kind of responsibility upon adults 
in the schools — whether they be social workers, university professors, or 



The Mind's Eye 75 



Seth Kershner 



high school teachers. Clearly it's not enough to say they operate under ter- 
rible burdens that make them voiceless. I understand those structural con- 
ditions, but it doesn't mean they shouldn't resist either. That means they not 
only have to promote particular kinds of pedagogies in their classrooms, but 
they also have to join social movements that give them the force of a collec- 
tive voice that can bear down on these problems and create change. 

The greatest battle that we're facing in the U.S. today is around the ques- 
tion of consciousness. If people don't have an understanding of the nature 
of the problems they face, they're going to succumb to the right-wing educa- 
tional populist machine. This is a challenge that the Left has never taken se- 
riously because it really doesn't understand that at the center of politics is the 
question of pedagogy. Pedagogy is not marginal, it is not something that can 
be reduced to a method, limited to what happens in high schools, or to what 
college professors say in their classes. Pedagogy is fundamental not only 
to the struggle over culture, but also, if not more importantly, the struggle 
over meaning and identity. It's a struggle for consciousness, a struggle over 
the gist of agency, if not the future itself— a struggle to convince people that 
society is more than what it is, that the future doesn't simply have to mimic 
the present. 

SK: What would this look like in practice? One encouraging experiment I 
had the privilege of observing up close is taking place at the Emiliano Zapata 
Street Academy in Oakland. There, in an "alternative high school" within 
the Oakland Unified School District, student interns working with a group 
called BAY-Peace lead youth in interactive workshops on topics relevant to 
their lives: street violence, the school-to-prison pipeline, military recruiters in 
their schools, and so on. 

HG: I think two things have to go on here, and you just mentioned one of them. 
We've got to talk about alternative institutions. There has to be some way to 
build institutions that provide a different model of education. On the Left, we 
had this in the '20s and '30s: socialists had Sunday schools, they had camps; 
they found alternative ways to educate a generation of young people to give them 
a different understanding of history, of struggle. We need to reclaim that legacy, 
update it for the 21st century, and join the fight over the creation of new modes 
of thinking, acting, and engaging ourselves and our relations to others. 

On the second level is what Rudi Dutschke called, and what I referred to 
earlier, as the "long march through the institutions." It's a model that makes 
a tactical claim to having one foot in and one foot out. You can't turn these 



76 The Mind's Eye 



Seth Kershner 



established institutions over to the Right. You can't simply dismiss them 
by saying they're nothing more than hegemonic institutions that oppress 
people. That's a retreat from politics. You have to fight within these institu- 
tions. Not only that, you have to create new public spheres. 

SK: Henry, we've covered a lot of territory. Is there anything we haven't ad- 
dressed that you would like to bring up before closing? 

HG: We need both a language of critique and a language of hope. Critique is 
essential to what we do, but it can never become so overwhelming that all we 
become are critics and nothing else. It is counterproductive for the left to en- 
gage in declarations of powerlessness, without creating as Jacques Ranciere 
argues "new objects, forms, and spaces that thwart official expectations." 
What we need to do is theorize, understand, and fight for a society that is 
very different from the one in which we now live. That means taking seri- 
ously the question of pedagogy as central to any notion of viable progressive 
politics; it means working collectively with others to build social movements 
that address a broader language of our society — questions of inequality and 
power (basically the two most important issues we can talk about now.) And 
I think that we need to find ways to support young people because the most 
damage that's going to be done is going to be heaped upon the next genera- 
tions. So what we're really fighting for is not just democracy; we're fighting 
for the future. And so critique is not enough; we need a language of critique 
and we need a language of possibility to be able to go forward with this. 

Works cited 

Harding, Scott, and Seth Kershner. "Students Against Militarism: Youth Or- 
ganizing in the Counter- Recruitment Movement." Left Behind in the 
Race to the Top: Realities of School Reform. Eds. Julie Gorlewski & 
Brad Porfilio. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2013, 257- 
273. Print. 

Lagotte, Brian W. "Gunning for School Space: Student Activists, the Military, 

and Education Policy." Be the Change: Teacher, Activist, Global Citizen. 

Ed. R. Verma. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2010. 183-214. Print. 
Mills, C. Wright. "The Cultural Apparatus." Power, Politics, and People: The 

Collected Essays of C. Wright Mills. Ed. Louis Horowitz. New York: 

Oxford University Press, 1963. 405-423. Print. 



The Mind's Eye 77 



Ben Jacques 




78 The Mind's Eye 



Gold and the 

Nightwatchmans Daughter 



BY BEN JACQUES 



We are in a classroom at a Massachusetts state college, and we 
are reading Walt Whitman. We began with "When I Heard the 
Learned Astronomer," in which the poet abandons the lecture 
hall for the open field to gaze directly at the stars. Then, for one week, we read 
"Song of Myself," Whitmans frank celebration of being alive. Its 52 free-form 
stanzas form the heart of the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. 

Now seated around a long table, my students are taking turns reading 
aloud Whitmans "Song for Occupations." In this six-part ode, the poet cel- 
ebrates farmers, glassblowers, milkers, millers, iron workers, sail makers, 
cooks, bakers, carpenters, masons, seamstresses and surgeons. 
The poem is vibrant in detail, cataloging both labors and tools: 

The pump, the piledriver, the great derrick . . the coalkiln and brick- 
kiln, I Ironworks or whiteleadworks . . the sugarhouse. . steam-saws . . 
The cylinder press . . the handpress . . thefrisket and tympan . . the 
compositor's stick and rule. 



The Mind's Eye 79 



Ben Jacques 

But why should we care? I ask my students during a pause in the read- 
ing — themselves sons and daughters of mechanics, retailers, nurses, accoun- 
tants, teachers, office workers, technicians, truck drivers, and social workers. 

The room is quiet, but not because my students don't know the answer. 
"Because it all matters," a young woman finally responds. "Our lives and what 
we do matter." 

She has, of course, identified the central and centering theme of Whit- 
man's poems: the immeasurable value of human beings, regardless of class, 
gender, race, religion, or occupation. Aware of society's prejudices, Whitman 
will return to this theme again and again. 

7s it you then that thought yourself less? Whitman asks in the first stanza 
of the poem.* 7s it you that thought the President greater than you? Or the rich 
better off than you? Or the educated wiser than you? 

If so, Whitman has something to teach us: 7 bring what you much need, yet 
always have, I Bring not money or amours or dress or eating .... but I bring as 
good. 

What he brings is not a matter of analysis or textbooks: It eludes discus- 
sion and print, I It is not to be put in a book . . . it is not in this book. 
In the cadences of a preacher he continues: 

You may read in many languages and read nothing about it; I You may 
read the President's message and read nothing about it there: I Nothing 
in the reports from the state department or treasury department .... 
or in the daily papers or the weekly papers, I Or in the census returns 
or assessor's returns or prices current or any accounts of stock. 

As a student reads, I can almost hear Whitman whispering: The sum of all 
known value and respect I add up in you whoever you are; I The President is up 
there in the White House for you . ... it is not you who are here for him. 

What Whitman offers in this poem is the gift of ourselves and those 
around us, an acceptance enriched by his democratic vista. In line after line 
he reminds us that we are, ourselves, the goal of science, art, laws, politics, 
commerce — and, yes, education. 

It's a good lesson for students in public colleges and universities, because 
it affirms them in a society prone to elitism. And it's a tender reminder that 
happiness is not tied to wealth, but to other human beings. 

Whitman closes "A Song for Occupations" with an elegant affirmation. 
Praising the singer over the psalm, the preacher over the sermon, the carpen- 
ter over the pulpit he carved, he exclaims: 



80 The Mind's Eye 



Ben Jacques 



When a university course convinces like a slumbering woman and 
child convince, I When the minted gold in the vault smiles like the 
nightwatchman's daughter ... 7 intend to reach them my hand and 
make as much of them as I do of men and women. 

But now our hour in the classroom is up, and hands are closing the thick 
Penguin edition of Leaves of Grass, gathering papers and backpacks. As my 
students depart, I notice the far-away look in the eyes of one, and glimpse in 
another's mischievous expression the smile of the nightwatchman's daughter. 

This essay first appeared in MTA Today, Oct/Nov edition, 2005. 



The Mind's Eye 81 



Advice to Students 
or 

You Deserve the Fairy Wings 



BY MELISSA QUIRK CAIRNS 

The following poem was written by an area slam poet and local high 
school English teacher as advice for students who have stopped believ- 
ing in themselves. Bits and pieces of experiences with specific students 
have found their way into this spoken word poem: 

When you stand there 

With your voice shoved with your fists 

deep into your back pockets 

when you stand there 

denying your pain (and your potential) 

You plant your feet 
And your heart 
In the dank earth 
Without hope of anything 
Growing there 
But with the simple desire 
To hide it 
In the dark 

Bury it under your 
Fears and 
Anger and 
Self doubt 



82 The Mind's Eye 



Melissa Quirk Cairns 



It is then 
That I want to 
Grab you 
To pick you up 
And shake you 

To wake up that snow globe of dreams 
And set you down gently 
So that you can see 

Because when your feet are on the ground 
And your dreams are in the air 
And all around 

Like firefly fairies sparkling past in their shooting star patterns 
When you shift your vision to allow yourself to see this new dimension 
When you change the "reality" from what IS 
To what CAN BE 

Then You can fly 

You can strap those dreams like fairy wings 
Around your shoulders 

And find release from the stagnation you're anchored to 
Play 

You can, you know 

And, no, it's not just some Anthony Robbins 

Life coaching seminar 

The "if you believe it you can achieve it" 

But 

Well, okay, maybe it is a little 

Because here's the thing I know is true: 

I see the success already alive in you 

It's hiding in the shadows of your self-doubt and fear 

Buried under days of hiding your mom's liquor and 

Cutting your arms so you don't feel the pain 

Of missing your dad or feeling the shame 

Of not being everything you think you're supposed to be 



The Mind's Eye 83 



Melissa Quirk Cairns 



It's buried 
I get it. 

But it's still there, darlin, 
It's still there 

Waiting for you to tap into it 

I see it in the bottomless wells of your eyes 
Pools of possibility 

You don't know it yet, but the choice is yours 

YOU have a say in how your life goes 

Believe me, if just for today: 

You have a SAY in how your life goes 

And I know that the road is long 
And I know that it's not always easy 

And I know that the "right" thing to do isn't always the choice you want to 
make 

And I know that some days the call of the razor to forearm is louder than your 
own voice 

And that voice in your head 

sometimes that voice whispers dark thoughts 

Pouring them like Claudius' poison into your ear 

And I know that sometimes the best you can do is trade the razor in for a 
Sharpie and mark yourself with lines 
Of poetry 
Of sadness 
Of defeat 

But 
You 

Have it in you 

It's already there 

So put on those fairy wings 
To fly long enough 



84 The Mind's Eye 



Melissa Quirk Cairns 



To see beyond the immediate landscape 
High enough 

To feel the winds change direction 
To see the clouds from above 
To see your Self 
Below 

And cradle her with your view 
Love her from above 

And know 

You have it in you 

To make the change you see 

Your power is greater 
Than your surroundings 



The Mind's Eye 85 



Four Prose Poems 



BY ANNIE RASKIN 



None of the following four prose poems are specifically "about" teaching 
and learning, yet so much of each is given to us far from the classroom, 
and often when we least expect it. I am fascinated by the Buddhist 
concept of the harsh angel, the often unrecognized teacher in our 
lives, invisible while present, and often unrecognized, the teacher that 
prompts us to listen and look with alertness and intensity while plow- 
ing through hurt, grief, loneliness, confusion, illness, even outrage, the 
teacher that asks of us a new openness, a new understanding, perhaps 
an acceptance, perhaps even joy, however painful, complex, or simply 
puzzling the lesson may be. 



Lessons 

He holds her close as she puckers up and leans into his handsome face, his 
lean, tanned, muscled body. His lips are parted. His Army buddy leans in 
awkwardly from the right hand corner of the black and white snapshot, far 
too eagerly watching the kissing lesson on the summer-lit beach. She is one 
year old. 

Years later the father taught her to fish. All good fishermen clean their own 
catch: Slit the belly from anal vent to gills. Gut them. Cut off their heads. 
Strip off the gills. Rinse the body cavity. Skin perch. Scale pickerel. Skin 
bullheads. Scale bass or skin it. Leave the hallowed brook trout hollowed 



86 The Mind's Eye 



Annie Raskin 



and whole. Scales flew high and stuck to the walls; the cat crunched in bliss 
on the fish heads tossed her way; livers, hearts, stomachs and guts, pillows 
of roe, sawed-off fins and flayed skin carelessly dispatched in a heap on the 
day-old newspapers laid out next to the sink. She snatched up smooth chalk 
white lobes for closer study. Milt, the father told her. That's how you know it's 
a male. Roe is the eggs, the mother's eggs — each tiny globule, each fish-to-be 
distinct if she looked close enough. This other nearly formless mass is what 
the father makes: slippery, chalk white, solidly fluid. He sprays it on the eggs 
floating in the water. Just firm enough to hold in her hand, a sac thinner than 
skin but tough as the membrane that makes a too-fresh hard-boiled egg so 
tricky to peel. 

More years later the father again taught her to kiss. That's not a kiss, he told 
her. Soften your lips. She did as he ordered. Somewhere in those same years 
the mother taught her to make a pale pudding called junket. The mother 
poured it into fluted glass dishes lined up on the kitchen windowsill to set. 
Sweet and smooth as a kiss, milk-white as death, she did love its feel in her 
mouth. It barely trembled in the dish if she touched it gently with a finger. 
Surface tension held it so. When she put her spoon into the junket, it began 
slowly to ooze water around the spoon's hole, intact only if untouched. Rennet, 
the father explained, from the lining of a dead calf's stomach. No real danger 
here, only offal in its own way. 



Birthing the Rocks 

Maples shade this back yard. Five looming maples. Last fall men climbed and 
clung in a balletic tour de force to lop away the bottommost limbs. Still, shade 
is everywhere; sun only dapples at high noon. Holes I try to dig for planting 
shade-loving Hosta reveal roots thick as my wrist. My shovel bent on moving 
maple roots thuds dully. There is no shifting them from their fiercely insistent 
grip on this turf I wish simply to share. Only the small, tinny plink when the 
point of my shovel finds unyielding shape tells me a stone sleeps deeply, tells 
me that here, in this place, I can plant. Here, in this place, a rock older than 
time I can fathom rests in soundless sentience. I do not awaken these rocks 
too quickly. They ought not to be harshly hustled from their underworldly 



The Mind's Eye 87 



Annie Raskin 



quiet. My shovel blindly feels its way, seeking that slim margin between rock 
and soil gracious enough to cede a rim of space, the rock not yet ready to 
shudder or shift, but only to suggest the curving compliance of a child side- 
sleeping, perhaps preparing to slowly stir from the depth and the dark and 
the dreaming. Sliding the tip along the stone's belly I circle and lean, letting 
the rock have its silent way with me when just like that a channel opens with 
a lurch as if tenacity were broken, primal connection loosed. Disquieted, I 
kneel to stroke its bulk, sense its weight. What is it I have disturbed - what 
the origin, what the form. What the unknowable wisdom of its presence now, 
here in this one place. Precambrian roots at the core of the Green Mountains, 
560 million years before this present day, before this ordinary steamy summer 
day in July, before this day, three summers into this garden becoming so 
gradually my garden. Who the witnesses.What the glacial force that wrestled 
and wore these rocks of granite, quartz, and gneiss to skin-smooth eggs of 
dinosaur dimension. What they mean to me. 



Dysgeographica 

She traces the impenetrable code of lines and loops to nowhere; north, south, 
east, west hold no meaning. She touches route numbers with her index finger; 
they multiply and mingle and confuse each other. Static blue-colored bodies 
of water briefly reassure, but there are too many. Even if she could find this 
lake on her map, this lake where she reluctantly takes swimming lessons when 
she already knows how to swim, where each day during free period she rows a 
boat all by herself far enough out in this bogus lake to make this summer camp 
look tiny and alien, it would not help her find her lake. Toasted pine needles 
in the patchy sun on the floor of paths from her cabin to the lake or the dining 
hall mime the warm spicy smell of pine needle littered paths at home. Each 
day after lunch she stalks the yellow route lines during rest hour on her top 
bunk. She listens to the counterfeit crows caterwauling. Whenever she can, 
she sits at the shore to look over this lake to the baffling mountains beyond 
it. There are no mountains anywhere near her lake. She isn't accustomed to 
mountains. They block her way home. They loom. They gaze back at her. 
They move closer every day. She is in the wrong place; it's the wrong map. 



88 The Mind's Eye 



Annie Raskin 



If she were to run her fingers over the mother's face, trace the territory 
between lips and lines and loops that carry the mother's disappointment all 
the way to her eyes, eyes like small lakes after hard rain pellets have muddied 
up the water, she would still have no way to know if she were home. The 
terrain of the father's being is a map she reads with all her senses, but to no 
avail. Wherever it is that his directions point, they each lead to the same fierce 
blazing hot sun that loves her and burns her all at once. She smells the heat 
surrounding him, feels the waves of his intemperate temper, but fails to find 
where the fit falls. The mother and the father: as cryptic and confusing as 
road upon road, route numbers, and never-ending lakes as they drive with 
their illegible faces over illegible mountains to leave her in this illegible place 
with only a promise to come back. A promise. Untranslatable maps. She is 
powerless to grasp the way, to conjure up the long path from here to there 
beyond the mountains' stare to the place of uncertain love where longing 
cannot rest. 



What She Knows 

Two or three nestle deep underneath a corner of the worn granite millwheel 
used as a step at the back end of the 18 th century farmhouse. Salamanders. 
So still they seem dead. They are not. She knows. They won't move until she 
picks them up, until they rest in the curve of her palm. Even then they move 
as if waking up for the first time, as if they are only now being born, slowly 
gathering themselves into themselves, less an actual movement than a feeling 
in her hand of things on the inside turning on as if she has pushed a button 
that isn't there. Sleepy salamanders: helpless, dormant salamanders. Dark 
red salamanders with deeper red spots. Grey-blue salamanders with bright 
yellow spots. Dusky black ones with no spots. The red ones are newts. She 
knows this because she heard the farmer across the street telling his son there 
were red-spotted newts under the hen house. She turns them over, looks 
carefully at their under parts, their short legs, their sticky toes. She studies 
their quietness, their stillness; they may be spellbound in a fairy tale. Their 
eyes are slits that blink without opening. From where do they come? Are they 
scared or only awaiting a sign to awaken under the heavy millstone? Maybe 



The Mind's Eye 89 



Annie Raskin 



it's simple: they like it here under the smooth weight of the old stone, in the 
cool absence of light, in the damp-dark musty safety of it. She wants to know 
what their names are in the book that gives names to salamanders. She wants 
to know if they get bigger, or if they stay small, and where they go when it's 
winter. She asks no one; they are her secret. She knows that she needs to 
know. 



90 The Mind's Eye 



Educators 

(In honor of my mother) 



BY AKILI CARTER 



I go forward armed with the lessons of many educators 

From professors to parents to ex-wives to current fiancees 

Life lessons have been drilled into my school while I was wide awake 

The answers to so many questions that have yet to be asked 

The most amazing education is the one you get at the hospital 

At 8 o'clock in the morning when your first child is being born 

You learn about your gumption as a man and a woman 

You figure out if you are ready to sculpt and mold a young human being 

As a father and as a mother 

The second-greatest lesson you get is when you watch your parent being laid 
into the ground 

Yes, they have given you the foundation for greatness, but you still are never 
ready 

For that type of loss and to handle that grief 

When you are arguing with them about a lesson whether mini or profound 
You are not thinking that what they are saying is out of love 
What is an educator or a teacher, or education and learning without context? 
The proper box for you to put your stackables of life into is very important 
But I digress; I started this poem wanting to answer a question about education 
What is education? What is a teacher? 

Well, your education is ongoing and non-stop, from cradle to grave 
What is a teacher? My mom, dad, fiancee, children, and family 
Hopefully, one day, when this topic is being written about by my children 
They will say, my dad was a teacher 

And I hope someone will reply that everyone is a teacher in their own way 
The thing I want to ask is, are the lessons worth learning? 



The Mind's Eye 91 



ABOUT THE AUTHORS 



Akili Carter 

Akili Carter is a social worker from Long Island, New York. He has two 
children, Ayanna and Devon, and is an MCLA alum. A student-athlete who 
played basketball for the mens team, he majored in history and English. Akili 
is completing his fourth collection of poetry called Shattered Mirrors. 

Glenn A. Crosby 

Glenn A. Crosby is a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Chemical 
Physics at Concordia University in Irvine, CA, and an Emeritus Professor of 
Chemistry and Materials Science at Washington State University. 

Dale Borman Fink 

Dale Borman Fink, Ph.D., came to MCLA after 35 years in childcare, early 
childhood education, out-of-school time care, and research and training re- 
lated to children with disabilities and their families. Among his books are 
Making a Place for Kids with Disabilities (2000), Control the Climate, Not the 
Children: Discipline in School Age Care (1995), and a children's book, Mr. Sil- 
ver and Mrs. Gold (1980). He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Har- 
vard University, a Master's degree in early childhood education from Antioch 
University, and a Ph.D. in special education from the University of Illinois 
at Urbana-Champaign. Fink is an assistant professor at MCLA, where he 
teaches courses in early childhood education, special education, and chil- 
dren's literature. 

Gideon Fink Shapiro 

Gideon Fink Shapiro is a doctoral candidate in architecture history and the- 
ory at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. His dissertation re- 
search concerns the landscape architecture and engineering of public parks 
in 19th-century Paris. His writing has appeared in the Journal of the Society 
of Architectural Historians, Architect, Abitare, Clog, Crit, Domus, the Guggen- 



92 The Mind's Eye 



About the Authors 



heim Lab\log, and other publications. He worked for four years in the design 
office of Gabellini Sheppard Associates, and has collaborated on public art 
installations with Brooklyn-based Amorphic Robot Works, as well as with 
the composer Simon Fink. He served as research assistant to curator Aaron 
Betsky, and authored the mobile phone-based Domus guide to New York ar- 
chitecture. 

Tony Gengarelly 

Tony Gengarelly, Ph.D., is a professor of art history and museum studies at 
MCLA, where he has taught for more than forty years. He has written and 
published on a variety of subjects, including Native American painting and 
Outsider Art. Most noteworthy are articles for the Folk Art Messenger and 
publications on American poster art, Maurice Prendergast, and American 
landscape painting. Gengarelly has curated, individually or with his students, 
over 30 exhibitions. Several have been featured at the Clark Art Institute, 
Williams College Museum of Art, and MCLA Gallery 51. For the past nine 
years he has been the director of the Jessica Park Project, an educational and 
professional program at MCLA. 

Ben Jacques 

A teacher, poet and free-lance writer, Ben Jacques has written for publications 
ranging from The Christian Science Monitor to Americas magazine. Several of 
his poems and essays have appeared in The Mind's Eye. One of his signature 
courses in his 23-year tenure at MCLA is "Whitman and the New World Po- 
ets" — a study of distinctively American voices, including William Carlos Wil- 
liams, Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes, Theodore Roethke, Allan Ginsberg, 
and Pablo Neruda. 

Seth Kershner 

Seth Kershner has taught Spanish at MCLA and Berkshire Community Col- 
lege (BCC). He is currently the Public Services/Reference Librarian at North- 
western Connecticut Community College. His articles and interviews have 
been published in Sojourners, Fellowship, and Z Magazine. With Scott Hard- 
ing, he is co-author of "Just Say No: Organizing Against Militarism in Public 
Schools," which was published in 2011 in the Journal of Sociology and Social 
Welfare. He and Harding are among a handful of researchers examining the 
grassroots "counter-recruitment" movement in the U.S. and are currently 
writing a book on the topic. 

The Mind's Eye 93 



About the Authors 



Melissa Quirk Cairns 

Melissa is a poet, actor, director, and teacher in Berkshire County. She has 
performed her poetry as a feature artist as a part of the 10X10 Poetry se- 
ries and the Greenfield Word Festival, and recently had the pleasure of being 
invited to read and be interviewed for Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz's Indiefeed 
Performance Poetry podcast "Live from the Amy Clampitt House." In addi- 
tion, Melissa has competed in several poetry slams across Berkshire County 
including the WordxWord Poetry Slam and the Western Mass. Champion- 
ships. She can frequently be found on the Tuesday Night Project stage at Y 
Bar as a poet, storyteller, or emcee. Melissa graduated from Mount Holyoke 
College, earned her Masters degree at Lesley University, and is an alumna 
corps member of Teach for America. She currently teaches English at Drury 
High School in North Adams, MA, where she lives with her husband and two 
cats, Atticus and Boo. 

Annie Raskin 

Annie Raskin teaches literature courses at MCLA, including those on the 
graphic novel, metafiction, and 19 th century American women regionalist 
writers. She previously taught at the State University of New York at Albany, 
where she was awarded a Ph.D. in 2004. She published an essay, "Hawthorne 
and the Daguerreotype: Portraits Gleaned from the Sun," in The Mind's Eye 
of spring 2005. She has published a number of op-ed essays in The Berkshire 
Eagle, as well as poetry in The Berkshire Review and in The Prose Poem Project. 
The four prose poems in this volume of The Mind's Eye are part of a manu- 
script in progress with a working title of Eros & Place. 

Gregory Scheckler 

In addition to being a fine art painter and photographer, Gregory Scheckler 
worked as a toy wrangler, floor refinisher, plasma donor, camp counselor, la- 
trine cleaner, onion cutter, antique restorer, typesetter, book store clerk and 
later, an art professor. He resides in Williamstown, MA, where he often can be 
found hiking, skiing, and biking the fair slopes of the Berkshires. 

Nick Stroud 

Nick Stroud is an assistant professor of science and technology education at 
MCLA, where he teaches courses in education and physics. His academic in- 
terests include creating links between learning science in and out of school, as 



94 The Mind's Eye 



well as developing the science knowledge and practices of future teachers. He 
also enjoys spending time outdoors throughout the year with his family. He 
holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University Teachers College. 

Jennifer Zoltanski 

Jennifer Zoltanski holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Brandeis University, a 
Master of Science degree in sociology from Portland State University and 
a Bachelor of Arts degree in French from the University of Denver. Her re- 
search focuses on prosecution of war crimes and genocide by the Yugoslav 
and Rwandan Tribunals alongside transnational mobilization against war-re- 
lated gender violence. As an assistant professor of sociology at MCLA, Jenni- 
fer teaches classes on criminology genocide, law and society, social problems, 
social stratification, and social movements. She received the MCLA Faculty 
Curriculum Development Award (2012) for "The Sociology of Happiness." 
She serves on The Mind's Eye editorial board. In her spare time, Jennifer en- 
joys hiking with her dog Amber and playing the ukulele. 



The Mind's Eye 95 



Forthcoming Issues 

The editors are working on a number of themes for publication. See the themes 
below for more information about each issue. 

If you wish to discuss or submit an article, piece of fiction, poetry, or work of art 
in a specific issue, or have suggestions for themes of future issues, please contact us as 
soon as possible at f.jones-sneed@mcla.edu. 

The Mind's Eye also will continue to publish "general articles" on liberal arts- 
related topics that do not fall under the themes. 

Main theme Submission deadline Publication date 

Commemorative Issue January 7, 2014 September 2014 

Civil Rights April 15, 2014 To be confirmed 

Art and Culture January 7, 2015 September 2015 

Environmental Issues April 15, 2015 To be confirmed 

Writer's Guidelines 

Submissions should adhere to these guidelines: 

1. Submit unpublished manuscripts both on paper and on CD, using either PC or MAC 
platform word-processing programs. Manuscripts should be typed double spaced and 
printed on one side of the paper only. List your name, address, phone number and e- 
mail address, if available, on the cover sheet, with your name at the top of each page. 

2. We will consider simultaneous submissions under the provision that the author notify 
us of this and contact us immediately if the material is accepted elsewhere. 

3. If you wish your manuscript and disk returned, please enclose a return self-addressed 
envelope. If it is to be mailed off campus, attach sufficient postage. While we make 
every attempt to safeguard your manuscript and disk, we cannot be held responsible 
for their loss. 

4. Use MLA style, with in- text references, as appropriate to the content and disciplinary 
approach of your article (see MLA Style Manual for guidelines). 

5. Please include a word count. 

6. While we will consider articles of unspecified length, preference is given to articles 
fewer than 20 pages long. 

7. We reserve the right to edit for clarity and accuracy. 

8. We will consider one-color artwork (e.g., photographs, line drawings, woodcuts). 

9. Payment will be made in contributor s copies. 



The Minds Eye 
Frances Jones- Sneed, Managing Editor 
Submit your manuscript to: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 

375 Church St., North Adams, MA 01247 
For queries: f.jones-sneed@mcla.edu 



96 The Mind's Eye